Ocean City’s The Commander Hotel and Restaurant

History Of The Commander

The Commander Hotel, a gem of Ocean City, Maryland, is an establishment that has been in business for almost a century. Facing the coast, the hotel opened on Memorial Day in 1930 and has experienced several expansions throughout the years of its existence. In the beginning, the hotel offered a mere 62 rooms, an American Plan dining room, and a kitchen with wood-burning stoves. The hotel had something notably advanced: the first elevator in Ocean City. Other amenities included an in-room telephone service and porches with rocking chairs. For as little as ninety-five U.S. dollars each week, a couple could stay in The Commander and enjoy three meals a day.

 

Images of the Commander Hotel in Ocean City, Maryland

During the era of World War II, the Commander Hotel hosted doctors, lawyers, and executives. The hotel rooms were equipped with blackout curtains to protect the windows from enemy shelling from submarines. Post-war, the hotel expanded, adding a North wing. The hotel also had a modified American plan, which included two meals per day for guests. The expansion added a second dining room that could accommodate four-hundred people. This space was attractive to conventions and renunions. In the dining room, the Commander Clambakes was hosted in the 1950s. This event had over twelve-hundred people. The Hotel provided lobster, corn on the cob, and steamed clams, prepared in a coal pit on the beach.

Dining at The Commander

Commander Hotel menu: “Commander Hotel / Ocean City, Maryland” (1955)

The menu shown above is likely from The Commander Hotel’s American plan, incorporated after World War II. This means guests would be able to have two meals a day and this is likely one of two menus. Some of the most interesting features on this menu include: “puree of green pea”, “winesap apple sauce”,  “jellied tomato”, and “jellied consomme”. ​​Based on the structure of the menu, we can assume that everyone is given a choice of a starter, entree, beverage, and dessert. The only prices on the menu are the entrees, which could mean that you would be charged extra.

Winesap apples, identified in 1804, and winesap apple cider

The winesap is a particular heritage variety of apple that was first recorded by Dr. James Mease in 1804. Apparently, these apples were first grown by Samuel Coles in Moore’s Town, New Jersey. The winesap was a popular apple to use in cider and applesauce. In the menu, we can infer that winesap apples are also present in the restaurant’s apple sauce, “natural apple”, and spiced applesauce cake.

Tomato aspic or “jellied tomato”

Jellied tomato, also known as tomato aspic, was popularized in the 1950s, making this one of the more “trendy” items available at the hotel. It is understood as a comfort food. Aspic, not to be confused with gelatin, is a savory, congealed substance, often flavored with animal stock such as pork, beef, or chicken. The flavor can be described as “mildly meaty”. 

Tomato aspic or “jellied tomato”

This is not the only “mildly meaty”, congealed item on this menu. Originating in France, consomme is a clear soup, flavored with rich stock or broth that has been clarified. Jellied consomme is a gelatinous version of the soup, and would typically be served in a glass. This item was relatively cheap as well. 

It is not difficult to imagine what “puree of green pea” looks and tastes like, but the fact that it landed on the menu of a bustling hotel is worth noting. It is listed with the rest of the starters and according to my research, has little historical background or significance. 

After further research on this hotel and its dining rooms, we can see that the hotel-restaurant scene during these decades was immensely popular. It was a great value to spend a vacation at a hotel this nice and with such an array of foods. It faced the coast, making it a destination for anyone who needed to get away from the monotony of their everyday lives. Hotels were also hosting a variety of people who are in the area for different reasons, even if it is not for a vacation. As I discussed earlier, it was a hub for executives, doctors, and lawyers during wartime.

The hotel was replaced after the original was torn down, according to an article that was released in the 1990s, titled “Final salutes for Commander Ending: Ocean City’s 67-year-old Commander Hotel will be torn down in a few days, giving Marylanders cause to fondly recall vacations there.” The Commander Hotel brand has withstood almost a century of business and has experienced several advancements since the 1950s.

Original Commander Hotel, 1930 and Commander Hotel, 2016

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