Legend has it that a farmer had gathered apples from his orchard and put them in wooden barrels for safe keeping. When he went back, however, the apples had all turned into a mushy cider-vinegar, so all the neighbors came over and helped pour the liquid down the hill. Hence, literally a Vinegar Hill.

In the late 1800s, William E. Smith built a farm and barn in the area. The property, still affectionately known by locals as The Smith Sisters’ Farm in honor of William’s daughters Gelia and Marcia who lived to be 90 and 100 respectively, remained in the family for 100 years.

In 1997, Adrienne Grant purchased the property, which had been vacant for over a decade, from the Smith family, and set about giving the old barn and farmhouse new life.

When I acquired the property, it was a falling down barn with a dirt floor and haylofts,” Grant said in a 2009 interview with Seacoastonline.com. “We had to move the barn, reinforce the structure and build it into a theater.”

Under Grant’s artistic direction, The Arundel Barn Playhouse opened its doors in 1998 and presented entertainment for nearly 20 years in the “Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland tradition,” with a resident company performing throughout the season. Among its roster of talent was John Lloyd Young, who went on to win a Tony Award for his portrayal of Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys. 

In 2015, Grant retired and sold the playhouse to business partners Tim Harrington and Debbie Lennon who renamed the venue to honor its history. With a dream of providing top quality entertainment for the community, Tim and Debbie set about refurbishing and expanding the space to include a rustic garden bar and installed state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment. The theatre opened in May 2016 under the Creative Direction of George Dvorsky, a former Broadway performer.

Vinegar Hill Music Theatre provided a broad range of local and national entertainment for four successful seasons, before being forced to close its doors for the unforeseen future due to the COVID -19 pandemic. During this time, Tim and Debbie offered the space up to Community Outreach Services (COS) of the Kennebunks to aid in their Hunger Emergency Relief Efforts. Because of this, they were able to mobilize their food operations, keep volunteers safe, and distribute to a larger group of people who were struggling to make ends meet than ever before. 

In the beginning of 2021, Tim Harrington sold Vinegar Hill Music Theatre to new proprietors and music-lovers, Peter and Emily Haranas, soon joined by long-time friends and Kennebunk residents, Craig Cameron and Michele Bundy. The new team set out to reinvigorate the venue after its long, forced hibernation, and to continue the legacy of Vinegar Hill as a driving artistic force within the surrounding community. 

Emily: “After all that we’ve collectively been through over the last year, I think music and art are the reason why many of us are still standing. They have been a consistent light in the darkness. When presented with the chance, we knew we wanted to be a part of bringing them back.”

Arundel Barn Playhouse
Vinegar Hill Music Theatre Renovation

Since opening its doors in 2016, Vinegar Hill Music Theatre has featured performances by local, national, and international talents like: Graham Nash, Linda Eder, Robert Klein, Jim Messina, John Waite, Caroline Rhea, Paula Cole, Todd Barry, Livingston Taylor, The Drifters, The Platters, Rickie Lee Jones, Cowboy Junkies, Ghost of Paul Revere, The Wailers, Juston McKinney, Suzanne Vega, Rustic Overtones, Tom Rush, Colin Quinn, Stephen Kellogg, Spose, Chris Smithers, The Bad Plus, Amy Helm, Shemekia Copeland, Kevin Nealon, The Mallett Brothers Band, Dar Williams, Martin Sexton, and more! 

Vinegar Hill also hosts a number of events benefitting local non-profits like: The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, Maine Medical Center, Seeds of Peace, the Maine Cancer Foundation, Lucky Pup Rescue, Sweetser, and the Louis T. Graves Memorial Public Library. 

Vinegar Hill Music Theatre is proud be a part of the tradition of summer theatre excellence in Maine, and of the histories of Arundel, Vinegar Hill, and the Smith Sisters’ Farm.