In the late 1800's John W. Garrett, President of the B&O Railroad, began promoting the Oakland/Deer Park area as one of the premier vacation resorts in the country. With twelve passenger trains arriving in Oakland daily there was an ever-increasing demand for additional hotels to accommodate the flood of visitors. In response to such demand, John and Ella Ault established "The Commercial House" hotel on the present site, opening a popular lodging place for vacationers and traveling salesmen. To accommodate the salesmen the hotel advertised "sample rooms for the commercial traveler"—hence the name "Commercial House." With business increasing at the rapid rate it soon became apparent that a larger hotel was urgently needed. Mrs. S.M. Miller, who had acquired the hotel, decided to relocate across the street. In February, 1985, she opened the new and much larger Commercial Hotel on the site of the present First National Bank building.
Mrs. Miller and her daughters ran the new hotel for nearly three decades, enjoying a reputation for their exquisite meals and gracious hospitality. One guest, who spent Christmas at the hotel in 1911, penned the following letter on December 25: "I was awakened when the breakfast bell sounded, and had a fine breakfast of chicken and waffles. I walked all around town after breakfast. Dinner was
served after twelve o'clock. It was turkey with lots of stuffing, cranberries, celery, olives, six vegetables, fried apples and delicious fruit salad, plum pudding with sauce, frozen custard whose flavoring was not bought in a grocery store, two kinds of cake, coffee, nuts and candy. The table was trimmed with scarlet bells and ropes of tinsel and a great bunch of roses; at my place was a long stemmed pink rose. At three o'clock I started out and climbed a high mountain, just behind the hotel. From this mountain I had an extensive view. When I finished dinner, I felt as if it would last me a week, but after out so long in this fine air, I was able to enjoy a light supper of cream toast, cold turkey, hot beefsteak, fried potatoes, apple sauce, cherry gelatin and hickory nut cake. So on the whole I have had a most delightful Christmas."
Upon the death of Mrs. Miller in 1924 the hotel was taken over by her grandson, William Davis, and Mr. James Towler. At that time the name was changed to the "William James Hotel". This hotel was considerably enlarged over the years and continued to enjoy a top-notch reputation. In 1963 the hotel was torn down to create space for the First National Bank building.
The original Commercial House which once stood on the present site, and was vacated in 1895, was reopened in 1899 by Mrs. J.T. Browning, who then named it the Browning Hotel. In later years this building became the private residence of Mr. Harland Jones and his sister, Miss Grace Jones. It was subsequently converted to an apartment house, and ultimately torn down in 1996.