In 1905, local industrialist Henry Potter  McKenney was 
persuaded by the Rev. John S. Burton, pastor of the Wesley
Chapel Circuit, to  establish a recreation center on a corner
of his extensive property for the purpose of providing  
recreation for the people in the remote area of  Rockland 
known as Wesley Chapel (or Sherwoodsville).  He, along 
with influential friends Charles C. Galbraith, 
Henry Von L. Meyer, Charles Peck, Irving Coe and Walter
Fairchild, proceeded to organize the “Suffern Community
Club.” Eventually, construction of the clubhouse was started on the site of an old Dutch barn near the sandstone “Onderdonk” house where quarterly meetings of the Wesley Chapel parishioners had been conducted prior to construction of the chapel in 1829. Mr. McKenney underwrote the entire project and sponsored construction on his own property.  During the early stages of development, the group met every Thursday evening at the homes of Dr. McKenna and Mr. Morris M. Daniels. Mr. McKenney was  driven up from the city each Thursday in his “Locomobile” and was most upset with  other members who were late or absent.  A stage and public seating were added, and  over the years, the clubhouse became the entertainment showcase for many Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, concert musicians, lecturers and dramatic performers.  In 1922, the Community Club building was enlarged to permit a larger stage and balcony to accommodate demands of increasing audiences.  However, Armour Galbraith, son of one of the founders, remembered that with the twenties came the arrival of crystal radios. They were inexpensive, and every home soon contained a radio – families no longer had to travel for entertainment.  They could now sit in the parlor and hear the finest entertainers in their earphones. It marked the beginning of the end of the early era of the Suffern Community Club. Plays and musical evenings were still enjoyed for years, but in the late 1930s, the theatre fell into disuse.  In 1936, a group of college students, under the leadership of Belle Mayer (Zeck), unable to find work during summer vacation, decided to perform a play at the Airmont School. They named their group “The Antrim Players” (after nearby Lake Antrim, which had taken its name from John Suffern’s “New Antrim”). There followed the usual amateur group pattern rehearsals in basements and parlors, performances given in school auditoriums. They were encouraged to continue their theatrical efforts for the entertainment of the community. They did just that during the years leading up to and during World War II.  Travel restrictions during World War II had an additional declining effect on the activities of the Suffern Community Club, and in 1940, The Antrim Players leased the building and changed its name to “The Antrim Playhouse.”  In 1953, the McKenney family decided to sell, but offered first option to the Players before advertising the property.  Ambitious though it was for a small nonprofit group, by dint of hard work and by selling long-term bonds, the large down payment was raised within three months. The Playhouse was secured and the present era of Antrim history began. Since then, the facilities have been gradually improved under prudent leadership.  In 1979, when the Playhouse was chosen by a TV company for filming scenes for an NBC movie, the producer (the son of playwright Philip Barry) described it as a “little gem of a theatre.”  Through the years, Antrim has been the starting rung for many talented people who have gone on to professional theatre, television and screen success in many capacities, including Fred Gwynne, Tyne Daly, Hugh McPhillips, Christine Andreas, Rene Auberjonais and many others.  The “Little Theatre in the Woods” has been here for a long time, always serving the community.  We are enthusiastically dedicated to ensuring that this great theatrical tradition flourishes in the new century.

Antrim History