World War II veterans Wesley Boynton and Morse Haithwaite performed in the Kennebunks for the first time in 1946 when their friend Robert Currier invited them to appear at his Kennebunkport Playhouse. Their performance was so well received that they returned several times that season to perform at the Olympian Club on Temple St. Starting in 1947, Boynton and Haithwaite’s New Bostonians Light Opera company performed regularly at Kennebunk Town Hall, but it was becoming clear that they needed a theatre of their own in the Kennebunks.
Contractor Arthur Hendrick encouraged Boynton and Haithwaite to bid on the old Town Hall building no longer in use at Townhouse Corners. They won the auction and in March 1954, Hendricks disassembled it, moved it down North Street to where the Municipal Parking Lot and Fire Station now stand, and reassembled it as a 520-seat theater called Arundel Opera Theatre. The seats were attached to a sloping floor flanked by wings containing rest rooms and administrative offices. The company also procured the late 1700s James Perkins House nearby to be used as a residence, studio, and workshop for the personnel of the Arundel Opera Company. Paintings by Abbott Graves, who had designed the original Town Hall building in 1901, were hung in the lobby.
Patronage at the Arundel Opera Theatre started to drop off when tourist hotels that remained in the Kennebunks started catering to short term visitors rather than families who stayed all summer. The Arundel Opera Theatre closed at the end of the 1963 season. The theater was sold to the Catholic Diocese of Maine in 1964 and became St. Martha’s Catholic Church. The building was sold back to the town of Kennebunkport in 1997 and torn down to make way for the Fire Station and Municipal Parking Lot on North Street.
What do you remember about Arundel Opera Company and it’s principals, Wesley Boynton and Morse Haithwaite?