Bet you didn’t know that this building was originally designed to house a movie theatre! The Montauk Theatre was built here in 1926 by the Pearson Construction Company during Carl Fisher’s rapid development of Montauk, and was meant to look “more like an exclusive club-house or private dwelling,” according to the Southampton Press at the time. It boasted a stage, which could be used for live events, and its opening show was a Christmas entertainment by the children in the Montauk school on December 16, 1926, at which every one of its 500 seats sold out.
For the first few years of its existence, four different church services were held in the theatre on Sundays — Catholic, Congregationalist, Presbyterian, and Methodist — since there were still no church buildings in Montauk. The church groups also used the theatre for benefit screenings and dances to raise money to build their houses of worship, which they accomplished in 1929 (Montauk Community Church) and 1930 (St. Therese).
Originally the theatre showed only silent films, with music provided on what the Suffolk County news at the time described as “a particularly fine organ.” In an oral history interview, Ruth White remembered that the musical accompanist tended to play only one song, My Mom Gave me a Nickel to buy a Pickle, regardless of the mood of the scene it accompanied.
In June of 1931, a sound system was installed, and by July it was playing to standing-room-only crowds. Here’s some of what was in store for lucky moviegoers that month:
Sadly, despite an encouraging start for the talkies, audiences dropped to about 25 people after the summer season ended, and the manager of the theatre stopped showing movies altogether later that year.
It remained open, though, and was used for plays, parties and other community entertainments until 1940, when the Post Office was moved here from the Fort Pond Bay village. The Post Office remained in this location until 1961, and in 1962 was moved to the building we know today.