Imagine girls dancing with servicemen in the elegant lobby ballroom. Picture the grandly arched dining room transformed into a mess hall for military personnel. That’s what the Montauk Manor looked like during World War II after the Navy appropriated the luxurious resort to serve as a military barracks – portions of which can be spotted to the right of the Manor in this photograph.
Before then, as gas rationing was under way in the spring of 1942, the Manor’s manager boasted in the East Hampton Star that the resort had purchased a fleet of shiny new bicycles to be made available in the summer. Well-heeled guests could use them to pedal to the Montauk Downs Golf Club, the Montauk Yacht Club, and the Montauk Surf Club, which were affiliated with the hotel.
By the spring of 1943, the Navy had taken over not only the Manor, but also the entire fishing village on Fort Pond Bay. Guests at the 176-room hotel had been supplanted by military personnel; longtime residents on the bay had been evicted to make way for torpedo testing. To house enlisted men and officers, the Navy also took over the Surf Club and Carl Fisher’s multistory office building in what today is downtown Montauk.
“You will, I know, share the pride that I feel in our beloved Manor, with its fine accommodations, climate, and setting, as it is proving at this time of national stress to be of real usefulness to our country,” said the resort’s manager as a prelude to the summer. Local newspapers announced a summer filled with dances at the Manor to which “all local girls” from Southampton to Montauk were invited, with transportation provided by U.S. Navy buses. U.S.O. dances and parties, boxing matches, and baseball games were other entertainments for the troops and the community at large, not all of them at the Manor.
In the spring of 1945, the story had changed again. Noting that the Navy had recently released the Manor, an article in the Star said it would not reopen until the summer of 1946 after “the complete reconversion of the property.”
“The Manor will be rehabilitated inside and out, completely refurnished and re-equipped and grounds will be landscaped, owners have purchased two buildings built by the Navy on the hotel grounds to be converted to afford accommodations for an additional 100 guests. There are many improvements and innovations planned for the Manor among which is a large outdoor cocktail and dance patio which will be connected by a winding staircase to a smart supper club in the basement,” was the forecast that spring.