Comstock Family’s Knack for Restoration Includes Historic Garage

The restoration of the old Commonwealth Garage into the new Comstock Garage is well underway with (above, from right) Steve, Dana and Hank Comstock, and Scott Nicodemus at the helm. Below, Heavy snow blankets the old Dodge Dealership in January 1964.

Story and lead photo by Rick Hiduk

(originally published in the Rocket-Courier – Read all of this week’s stories here:

Meshoppen residents have witnessed many changes through the years at the intersection of Route 6 and Meshopany Ridge Road. After fires, floods, and the reconstruction of the highway, a mammoth building has stood the test of time, even though it too has been modified repeatedly as it served the community in a variety of ways. In its current incarnation, what was long known as the Commonwealth Garage and, during the 1970s and ’80s, as the Meshoppen Fire Company, is shining once again as Comstock Garage.

Old photos posted on Facebook by Meshoppen area luminaries like Marge Singer, Marge Walters, and Gail James often evoke memories, but those of the former Tyler Hospital/Kennard Hotel and Commonwealth Garage – once just across the side street from each other – generate threads that can continue for weeks and even months as long-time and former residents chime in. This is certainly true of the recent reposting of two old photos of the garage and car dealership that operated out of the same building.

Most people over 40 remember the four decades during which Guy Stevens operated his business there, even though he bought the garage in 1929 from Ernest West. Shortly thereafter, he began selling cars, the first being a Dodge to Carp Sands and the second, a Plymouth sold to his father-in-law, W.A. Peters of Hazleton.

According to a stories published in the New Age and Rocket-Courier newspapers upon Stevens’ retirement after 42 years, he had to put the business on the back burner at the onset of World War II because there were no new cars to sell. Stevens returned to Meshoppen from a job in Berwick after the war and bought the rest of the property from West. Business was brisk. He was quoted as saying that he sold 72 vehicles in one of the first years after the war.

There was originally one if not two structures between the building and the highway that fell victim to a fire in 1943 that leveled much of the original downtown. Modifications to the highway also changed the use of the front of the building, which was built into the bedrock of the adjacent hillside. Much of the stone that occluded the front of the building has since been removed.

Many residents fondly recall buying cars from Stevens or their parents buying cars. “In 1966, I bought my second car there,” noted Chuck Place. “A used beautiful ’64 Ford Galaxy 500 XL convertible. ’Wish I had kept that one!”

My dad bought our first car off Guy,” Sherry McMicken wrote. “A blue Dodge station wagon that we drove to California and back. It was awesome.”

In addition to being a well-respected businessman, Stevens was involved with the community civically and politically. He once served as borough council president and was a big supporter of the Meshoppen Fire Company, helping them buy a badly-needed pumper at one time and eventually selling his building to them at a bargain. Guy and his wife, Elizabeth, moved to Tunkhannock to live with their daughter, Maxine and her husband Bob Smales and their family. Guy and Elizabeth died just four days apart from each other in March 1980 in the same hospital.

Many people had the privilege of living in a grand second-floor apartment when the building was a garage and when it served as the fire company headquarters. Those who lived or visited there remember sliding pocket doors, swinging doors, and a large built-in cupboard in the kitchen. Maxine and Bob were among those to reside there. Legend has it that, when their son, Steven (Chip) Smales, was born at the hospital next door, Bob went up on the porch of the apartment and shouted for all the town to hear, “It’s a Boy!” Chip’s sister, Sharman Smales, was born two years later and also has fond memories of the apartment.

New Owners With Their Own Unique History

The next private owner of the building was Gilbert Oakes, who is credited with having done extensive work to the interior of the building that he was unable to finish. Unfortunately, the building sat idle for a stretch of time during which flooding and persistent moisture issues betrayed his progress.

In another year or two, it might all have been past the point of no return,” said Steve Comstock, who purchased the building with his wife, Dana, in June 2022. They began working on the building a few years before taking ownership.

It was such a shame” Dana said of Oakes’ efforts. “He had done some amazing things in here, but we weren’t able to save any of it.”

The Comstock’s story, including a lineage of garage owners and mechanics on the Mehoopany side of the Susquehanna River, both parallels and intersects that of the Stevenses.

Steve’s grandfather, Howard Comstock of Mehoopany, started working at the Commonwealth Garage in Meshoppen in 1947 when he returned from World War II. He took his experience back to Mehoopany, where he ran a garage from the 1950s into the 1980s, starting in a building that was situated near the current intersection of Schoolhouse Road and Route 87, and constructing his own garage there in 1969. Steve’s father, Corey Comstock, and uncle, Wayne Comstock, also worked at Comstock Garage, which offered radiator and general automobile repairs for local residents.

I was always down in the garage when I was a kid, even after it shut down,” Steve recalled. “I guess it was just natural.”

He and Dana met about 14 years ago when Dana reached out to him through an online dating site. Steve jokes that it may not sound very romantic, but it was apparent from the start that they both loved cars. They were married in August 2014.

Dana also had experience with vehicles and garages, having worked at Harry’s U-Pull It salvage yard in West Hazleton for many years and then at Phil’s Auto Body in Tunkhannock until their son, Hank, was born seven years ago.

Bringing The Past Into the Present

Steve and Dana had rebooted the family business in Mehoopany in 2020 but soon realized that they needed more room and increased visibility. “We needed bigger space to work on more cars,” Steve related. “We looked at 15 or 16 buildings in the area, but this one fit our needs best.”

It’s an awesome building, and we like the rough appearance,” Dana added.

Some of those unrefined elements include the tin ceiling that crowns the second floor mechanical area and the stacked stone on bedrock wall that dominates the east end of the first floor. Dana would like to paint the ceiling eventually, and the rock wall that still bares the grooves drilled for dynamite will remain exposed.

Preparing the building for the business to move across the river in November of 2022 has become an ongoing labor of love. The couple has enjoyed the help of friends and Steve’s stepfather, Ken Harvey, who assisted with carpentry and framing.

We definitely love bringing old buildings back to life just like we do old cars,” Steve remarked.

Especially if they were part of our family,” young Hank interjected in reference to his great grandfather having worked there. Hank is the sixth generation of Comstocks to live in the family’s Mehoopany home.

I love old buildings and saving anything that can be saved,” said employee Scott Nicodemus, a friend of the Comstocks from Mehoopany who does mechanical, electrical, and other building maintenance, in addition to working on cars. Scott and his wife, Tracy, restored a Victorian house in Mehoopany.

One of the most practical additions to the garage so far is a solid wooden staircase connecting the two floors. Prior to its construction, Steve noted, “There was never a way to get upstairs without going outside.”

Beyond the first floor entranceway and lobby, where the dealership showroom used to be, is the clean work bay where assembly and detailing takes place. Beyond that is a the paint bay. The entire downstairs has been gutted, and the construction of new walls is underway.

The “dirty work” will be kept upstairs in the second-floor service department that has always been accessible via Meshopany Ridge Road (formerly Firehouse Hill Road.)

Restoration plans for this year include completing the exterior painting so that signage can be installed, roof work, and the replacement of more windows. Eventual projects include the renovation of the aforementioned apartment, with its intricate woodwork, built-in features and transoms still intact, into office space. Dana would like to have some kind of an upper deck or porch (as seen in some of the older photos) constructed as a place to relax during breaks in the work day.

The new Comstock Garage is focused on the restoration of antique and classic vehicles, as evidenced by the unique cars and trucks parked in front of the building. Recent projects have included the full restoration of a 1953 Ford F100 pickup truck owned by Stuart Otten of Forkston and rebuilding the engine of a bright red Farmall tractor that Kern Dibble of Meshoppen used to enter in contests.

Dana dotes on the aesthetics of the business, decorating the lobby with retro furniture and collecting photos and items as simple as calendars and matchbooks that bare the Commonwealth Garage logo.

We’re definitely on the lookout for other memorabilia that people in the area might have,” Steve noted.

Once we get our shelves and hutches in here, we’ll be able to display more things,” said Dana, adding that the couple appreciates the comments and encouragement they are getting from local residents.

It’s a really nice little town to be a part of,” Steve remarked.

Readers with an interest in the Comstock Garage project and services offered are encouraged to call 570-582-7208.

New cars line the west end of old Commonwealth Garage in the 1930s.

Comstock Garage and Dodge Dealership was also a filling station in the late 1940s and early ’50s as evidenced by the pumps at the Route 6 intersection.

It appears that the Dodge Dealership that was part of Commonwealth Garage was hosting a promotional event in this night shot from the 1950s.



  1. Such a well written and interesting story. Nice to see the building being restored.

  2. Soo cool! Good luck, Steve and Dane!

  3. What a nice story that rekindled many memories for my husband Smokey Burgess. He and his late wife also lived in that upstairs apartment.

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