Site of other Kelly Family Vacation House; Photographed by Louise Feder
Next on our tour of Grace Kelly’s local life is Ocean City, New Jersey. The Kelly family owned a home in the seaside town from 1929 until 2001. At one point the family actually had two homes right across the street from each other: the original house at 2536 Wesley Avenue and a beach house built on 26th Street in 1960 that has since been torn down to make way for more modern condos.
When Grace was a girl, the Kelly family vacationed in Ocean City every summer. John B. Kelly, Sr. had envisioned the town as a much needed retreat from the stresses of city life in Philadelphia. He selected the land where their vacation house was to be built, while Margaret selected the home’s Spanish Mission Revival style. Though they were initially far from the downtown area of Ocean City, houses quickly began to pop up around them and soon the Kelly vacation home felt much less isolated. By all accounts the Kelly children had a very normal summer experience on the shore: they went swimming, spent time on the boardwalk, and Grace even worked as a waitress at a local restaurant called The Chatterbox (still in operation).
The family was best known in the area for their annual Labor Day barbecues that doubled as family reunions. Even before Grace became a princess, the locals knew all about the Kelly Family’s massive party that included body surfing and a chicken bake-off contest. Guests to the party and at other times during the summer included nuns from St. Bridget’s Church in East Falls, rowing friends of John Kelly, Jr., and celebrity friends of Grace’s including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.
Once Grace married Prince Rainier, it would have been easy to excuse herself from the family vacations in Ocean City, given her royal responsibilities, but she kept going! Generally, Grace and the rest of the royal family would come for two weeks so that they could attend the annual Labor Day barbecue but also so that her children could spend time with their cousins and enjoy the shore as much as Grace had as a girl. These royal visits sometime drew unwanted attention from tourists and other summer residents at the beach but generally it seems that the Kelly’s neighbors loyally protected their privacy.
If you want to visit Ocean City I recommend a visit to the Ocean City Historical Museum. The museum’s collection, devoted to Ocean City’s history, includes artifacts and memorabilia spanning multiple generations of Kellys. Their set of “Kelly for Brickwork” playing cards is particularly fun to see, especially since it is on display in the midst of many other objects including photographs, jewelry, records, and paintings relating to Grace Kelly. The most unique piece in their Kelly collection is a replica of Grace’s wedding gown. The gown was donated by Elizabeth Barrandcas, a woman from Maryland who so admired Grace’s gown that she had a family friend replicate the dress exactly at her own wedding. Since the original wedding gown, part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s permanent collection, cannot be exhibited often due to its fragility and light sensitivity, the opportunity to see a replica is not to be missed. While Ocean City is, of course, lots of fun to visit in the summer you can visit the museum all year round! See below for information on the Kelly’s Ocean City house and the Ocean City Historical Museum.
Can’t wait until October to see what the Michener Art Museum has to offer? No problem! Visit our website at to see what we have on exhibit currently, learn about memberships, programs, upcoming events, and find our hours to schedule your next trip. We hope to see you soon.
-Louise Feder, Membership and Special Events Coordinator
Ocean City Historical Museum
1735 Simpson Avenue
Ocean City, NJ 08226
Kelly’s Ocean City Vacation House
2536 Wesley Avenue
Ocean City, NJ08226
Only visible from the outside; not a museum
Thank you to Jeffrey R. McGranahan, Executive Director of the Ocean City Historical Museum for his help with this entry.