On Memorial Day, 1930, Ocean City’s newest hotel opened its doors for business with a full American Plan dining room to complement its 62 rooms. Food service came from a kitchen fueled with wood burning stoves. For just $95.00, a man and his wife could stay for a week with three meals per day included. Phone calls were only 10 cents, and a gallon of spring water retailed for 53 cents. The hotel boasted the city’s first ever elevator, in-room telephone service and an expansive front porch overlooking the boardwalk and ocean complete with rocking chairs.
During WWII, the Commander was a haven for overworked doctors, lawyers and executives. During those days, the windows were covered at night with black-out curtains because of the danger of enemy shelling from off-shore submarines
After the war, with the economy improved, plans were completed to add a new north wing. Then operating on the Modified American Plan, which included two meals per day, and boasting a dining room that could seat at least 400 people, the Commander became the hotel of choice for many convention groups and reunions. During the 1950’s, the Commander Clambakes became known throughout the state and were twice featured in the Baltimore Sun. On some occasions, over 1,200 people ate lobster, corn on the cob and steamed clams cooked together on the beach in a pit enclosing an oak bed of coals, smothered in kelp and covered with canvas.
The March Storm of 1962 brought the beach clambakes to an end, as the beach elevation after the storm made it impossible to build a fire that would not be extinguished by high tide. After that, the clambakes were prepared in the hotel kitchen.
Beginning in 1979 and for the next 14 years, the Lynch Family produced the Commander Boardwalk Dinner Theatre. This was not a buffet theatre, but a performer service theatre that brought rave reviews. Many of our past performers can be seen in road shows, on Broadway, TV Commercials, Carnegie Hall and even the movie musical “Evita.”
In 1992, the first phase of a rebuild for the future project was completed with the opening of the Cabana Building.