McKee's General Store (museum)
In our aim to preserve local history, we are pleased to announce that our version of the old General Store will be opening in 2023 or 2024 (depending on the pandemic). A generous grant from the Esther & Harold Mertz Foundation Committee of the Community Chest of Port Washington allowed us to purchase this board & batten timber oak shed.
Scout Devin O’Brien, of Troop 71 in Plandome, completed his Eagle Scout project building the interior of the general store. We thank him and his fellow scouts, scout leaders, and family for their participation in this undertaking.
We will recreate a general store of a bygone period and will display tools and numerous household items. Come again and step back in time!
McKee’s General Stores
compiled by Joan DeMeo-Lager
Before 1840, Cow Neck Peninsula had a population of fewer than 200 people. Although small, the farming and shell fishing community had a growing need of a general store. Thomas McKee filled that need by opening the town’s first store on the corner of Shore Road and Harbor Road, opposite the bay at the Mill Pond. He stored his stock of groceries in a building across the street.
McKee’s Store also served as the first official post office, commencing its business on July 12, 1859. The town leaders petitioned Washington for an “official” post office and in doing so, changed its name from Cow Neck to Port Washington to commemorate our first president. The mail had to be collected from and delivered to Great Neck where the railroad line ended, twice daily, by horse cart. In addition to merchant and postmaster, Thomas McKee served as coroner and had an unsuccessful run for sheriff.
Port’s residents began to move uptown, and lower Main Street became the center of the community. Accordingly, Thomas’s son, George, opened up a second store at #287 Main Street, and subsequently had a coal and feed shop at #289. He delivered goods to his customers by horse and wagon throughout the 1890s.
George McKee’s (1843-1920) two sons, William (1870-1935) and Fred (1874-1947), ran the store on lower Main Street after their father died. Fred maintained the store after his brother’s death, and finally retired in 1940, closing the doors of the old general store once and for all. The Thomas McKee Store at the Mill Pond was eventually demolished to make way for a larger and more modern building.
The original McKee's General Store, at the Mill Pond, at the corner of Shore Road and Harbor Road. Although this was Port Washington's very first store, this photo was probably taken shortly before the old buildilng was torn down. Dated July 15, 1954