Commack History: The Commack Corners of the Past

A local intersection has played an important part in Commack since the hamlet's early days.

For centuries the intersection of Jericho Turnpike with Commack and TownLine Roads has been known as Commack Corners. Each corner represents a bit of the hamlet’s early history.

Today visitors will find the on the southeast corner of the intersection. Brad Harris, Smithtown Historian, said the spot once served as a militia training ground during the Revolutionary War and remained open farm land well into the 1900s.

On the site of the Peppertree Commons Shopping Center located at Jericho Turnpike and Commack Road, early residents frequented a general store. According to Robert Saal’s An Illustrated History of Commack, Joseph Whitman built a the store on his River Head Farm in 1672.

This same general store was owned by Frank Otten from the early 1900s until his passing in 1920. According to Saal’s research, the owner would travel to residents’ homes every Friday to deliver their orders. The local post office was also housed here during Otten’s ownership.

A Mr. Kelly and Mr. Kress bought the store when Otten died, and a year later Kress’s brother-in-law Charles Werle took over the business, according to An Illustrated History of Commack. In order to compete with a local A&P, Werle joined the Royal Scarlet Chain. He began carrying their brand and eventually added a soda fountain and two gas pumps in front of the store. While residents could still pick up their mail at the general store, it was handled by a postmaster and not Werle.

According to Lucille Rosen’s Commack a Look Into the Past, Dinetteland could be found at the same location of the former general store around 1970 and parts of the original structure were still standing.

The northeast corner where is today is the former spot of Commack’s first hotel that burned down in 1895. According to Harris’s research, it was called the Woodhull Tavern and then the Goldsmith Hotel. One wing of the structure dated back to the 1770's.

According to An Illustrated History of Commack, in 1924 Fred and Paul Goldsmith built Commack’s first gas station on the hotel site that once belonged to their grandparents. The brothers also had a repair shop, and in 1936 sold the business to Frank Otten Jr. who eventually sold cars on the lot.

Today many locals bring their cars to the  on the southwest corner of the intersection. This was once the site of the Commack Hotel that was built by William Mahler in 1895. In Saal’s writings, the hotel was described as two stories high with a porch and a double door that opened up into a bar area. The upstairs had four to six rooms for guests to stay.

The Gordon family bought the business after WWI and renamed it The Gordon Arms Hotel. The owners eventually added a dining room to accommodate those traveling through Commack. In 1965 the hotel was lost in a fire.

Through the years these former establishments of Commack Corners have been replaced by other businesses, yet the intersection has continued to remain a bustling area in the community.   

Paul L. September 02, 2011 at 10:37 AM
I remember the Commack Hotel burning down when I was a kid.
Carol September 02, 2011 at 10:59 AM
We moved to Commack in 1959 and I remember a hotel on the site where the Goodyear Tire is now...corner of Commack Rd. and Jericho. diagonally across from where White Castle is now. Is that the hotel you mean, Paul?
Paul L. September 02, 2011 at 11:12 AM
Yes, that is the one I was referring to, Carol. It was a big black and white building.
frances September 02, 2011 at 06:08 PM
I'm fascinated by the way Commack used to be. My daughter and her boyfriend told me that The SpareRib Restaurant in Commack has many "old-time" photos of Commack hanging all around the restaurant. Gotta go if even just for the photos !
Paul L. September 02, 2011 at 08:04 PM
Yes, I've seen those photos in the Spare Rib. You can also see some vintage photos of Commack at Ruby Tuesdays (on the grounds of the old Marion Carll school) and believe it or not I saw some old photos of Commack at Waldbaum's on Vanderbilt Parkway.
camille cowap September 02, 2011 at 09:21 PM
I have a great book, Commack... a beautiful place, commack public Education 100 years - 1899-1999 It has alot of history and pictures, put out by the Commack School District in 2000.
ELLE January 28, 2013 at 11:44 AM
Deborah Perham July 01, 2013 at 11:20 PM
Join Facebook's new group "We Are Commack Proud." Post your memories of Commack. (Connecting generations and preserving memories of our beautiful town.)


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