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Cecil County Life

Spotlight on Chesapeake City

Dec 31, 2020 12:57PM ● By Tricia Hoadley
By Drewe Phinny
Contributing Writer

When people talk in glowing terms about a town or city, it’s usually because there are more than just a few good restaurants in town for people to enjoy. There’s a variety of recreational activities, a rich history and a general spirit that permeates the area and leads to visitors coming back again and again for more. That’s the kind of word-of-mouth excitement that dominates conversations about Chesapeake City, which was originally called the Village of Bohemia or Bohemia Manor. The name was changed in 1839—after the C & D Canal was built in 1829.

Conversations with local merchants, businesspeople and visitors invariably show a common enthusiasm for all aspects of life in and around this vibrant water community.

It’s hard to find a more eager cheerleader than D.J. Fasick, who runs Chesapeake City Water Tours. Literally everybody knows “D.J.” by just those two letters.

“It’s a cool place and there are a lot of business owners in the community who come together and create a really charming, cool town,” said Fasick. “It’s amazing. There’s so much history, and it’s crucial to the U.S. as well. Years ago, that channel was huge.”

He went on to explain the importance of the C & D Canal. “Number one, it was dug out by hand and number two, it was a modern marvel at that time. The original pump house is in Chesapeake City. The canal was a system of locks…connecting two bodies of water at different elevations. They’ve turned the pump house into a museum, preserving the stone structure.”

Fasick added that it’s the best kind of history—living history.

He mentioned that he’s been studying tourism locally and in the state of Maryland, and the numbers show a significant increase of visitors who stay close instead of traveling to other spots, such as the Outer Banks, etc. “They come to the Eastern Shore and stay here. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback on that. They now know they don’t have to travel hours and they can spend the money right here. They get their seafood from the Crab Shack and places close by, which will have a lasting impact on our community.”

It figures that if anybody would know about a celebrity sighting, it would be D.J. “We had a special visitor recently on the water—Jimmy Buffett. We were docked at the Chesapeake Inn to leave for a cider and doughnut cruise, and there’s Jimmy cruising along in a fishing boat. He waved at us and we cranked up “Margaritaville.” Cecil County is on the map. We’re becoming a place to be, a destination.”

Fasick started the business when the couple that owned Miss Claire Cruises retired after more than 25 years. “I had been working on a tugboat after graduating from SUNY Maritime College,” he explained. “I had a bachelor’s degree and a captain’s license or an officer’s license in the Merchant Marines.”

He wanted to pick up where Miss Claire left off and also expand on the business. “I wanted to cater to a broader spectrum of people,” Fasick explained, “by adding a new flavor to the tour boat industry. We still do Tuesday Evening History Tours with a local author; and we also do craft beer and wine cruises with local vineyards and breweries, rum and reggae cruises with live music, daily sunset cruises as well as birthday and anniversary celebrations.”

They will also do weddings.

“Yep, we’ve had quite a few weddings on board. We do it all,” Fasick said.

There are great restaurants in Chesapeake City, but that’s just the beginning. For instance, you can treat yourself to a delicious meal at Schaefer’s Canal House while you watch all the big ships pass by, then walk off the calories on the Ben Cardin C&D Canal Recreational Trail, named after U.S. Senator Ben Cardin. The paved pathway runs along the waterfront for 1.8 miles to the Delaware border. Activities include biking, inline skating and fishing. There is a link to Delaware’s Michael Castle Trail. Both run along the north bank of the C&D and meet at the state line. The total distance is 14 miles.

Then there’s the Inn at the Canal and the Rummur Bar, owned by Ed and Sarah O’Hara.

So what’s the deal with the spelling of Rummur? Well, if you spell it backward and forward, you’ll come up with rum both ways and rum is a big deal.

“When we bought our liquor license,” Ed explained, “we bought it from some friends who had started a rum-only bar. In Australia, they ran a rum import company. They were an invaluable resource to us.”

From there, they expanded the concept to a variety of rum cocktails as well as wine and beer and scotch and vodka Then there’s the apple-butter old-fashioned and the espresso martini with rum, and the traditional Virgin Island painkiller. Yes, rum rules. The menu changes from summer to fall to winter. And there’s a full bed and breakfast, too.

In praising other businesses, O’Hara exemplified the signature spirit of support shown by Chesapeake City merchants. “The Taproom has been here for ages and they’re still kickin’. They’re the only place where you can get whole crabs and eat them on site.”

The Bayard House is famous for, among other things, its “Hole in the Wall.” Jenn Marin, who owns the place along with her family, furnished some details: “ It was in the oldest building in the city. It’s been many things {through the years}. Where it is right now was actually horse stalls with rooms to rent upstairs. Then, it was converted to the Hole In the Wall Bar and still had the rooms.”

Around the time of Prohibition, the Duponts took over and restored the whole restaurant with the Bayard House upstairs featuring more fine dining. Downstairs, it’s always been the Hole in the Wall. As she spoke about the history, Marin added an interesting tidbit: “Many of the houses in town were built from the barges that came up the canal. They would take the barges apart and use the wood to rebuild the houses.”

She added, “Our property is actually three buildings, so we have the Bayard House with the Hole in the Wall, and a cottage that’s a B & B, and next to that is a creamery we rent out for ice cream products. We are actually planning some major renovations to the building, including the kitchen, and we’re adding a smoking lounge, which is going to be a cigar private club kind of thing.”

The Bayard House, similar to some other businesses, has seen an increase in business, despite the challenges of COVID-19.

Believe it or not, the aforementioned attractions in Chesapeake City are only the start of what the town has to offer. There ‘s Prime 225, the upscale steakhouse, the Chesapeake Inn, which was opened by Giuseppe Martuscelli and his son, Gianmarco, in 1996, Café on the Bay, with breakfast sandwiches and specialty coffees and the Real McCoy Dairy Crème and BBQ, with delicious ice cream treats and more.

And then there are the shops: Chick’s Clothing Store, My Jewelry Place, Old Gray Mare Gift Shoppe, Back Creek General Store, Belle on Bohemia, and many more.

The water, the restaurants, the shopping, the people and the history make Chesapeake City one of the great jewels of Cecil County.

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