I’ve heard a lot about Forefathers Inn since I moved to Kennebunkport in Y2K but some of the facts about its ultimate fate are still fuzzy for me. Maybe you can help.
Tea houses were all the rage in the Kennebunks, especially during Prohibition. Forefathers Spring House, later known for serving up a different kind of refreshment, opened as a tearoom in an 18th Century house near Townhouse Corners in 1917. Forefathers spring water, “Pure as Nature Flowers” apparently made the tea especially delicious served with “unusual dainties for tea and lunch.”
By 1957, the Forefathers’ Inn menu included steak, lobster, and chicken served from 10am to 10:30pm. Nothing dainty about that! Its real claim to fame though, was its proximity to the Kennebunkport Playhouse, less than a quarter mile away. Theatregoers patronized its three lounges, the Tack Room, a Ladies Lounge, and a Juke Room.
On November 20, 1979, a month after the owner James Beatty, Jr. had closed Forefathers for the season, a passerby spotted flames coming from an upper story window of the establishment and called in an alarm at about 8pm. Four Kennebunkport Fire Companies responded. Chief Carle G. Danis theorized that the fire was incendiary and had started in rental units on the 2nd floor. There firefighters found plastic containers filled with gasoline placed in a children’s plastic swimming pool with a sheet draped through it as a wick.
After they got the upstairs blaze under control, firefighters discovered a similar gas can setup in the lounge area downstairs that had never ignited. Chief Danis estimated damage at between $20,000 and $30,000.
Here is where I need your help. I know that Forefathers Inn was reopened the next season and is mentioned in the newspapers until 1993 but I have very little documentation on operations there during the 1970s and 1980s. I know that music played a larger role during those decades. Anything you can remember about the business would be greatly appreciated by me and by future researchers at the Kennebunkport Historical Society.
Early picture of Forefathers
Advertising in the local summer newspaper in 1917
Forefathers Diningroom 1957.
Forefathers Inn fire November 20, 1979
The porch at Forefathers Inn was screened in at one point