The original Hunterdon Hills Playhouse was built in 1939 from a renovated barn on the 300-acre dairy farm of Mortimer T. Steuart, back in the woods about midway between Baptist Church Road and Mechlin’s Corner Road in Union Township, NJ. Later expanding to include a restaurant on the property, the Playhouse provided summer stock tryouts for new productions, as well as hit shows, with a resident acting company augmented by big names like Pat O’Brien, Joan Fontaine, Ed Wynn, Gloria Swanson, Bert Lahr, Maureen O’Sullivan, David Wayne, Lillian Roth, Elaine Stritch and William Bendix to name a few.
After achieving limited and sporadic success, the Playhouse closed in 1962.
Our company (Sunset Productions) started in the dinner theatre business on January 15, 1975, producing and staging afternoon plays in rented banquet rooms at the Watchung View Inn and Summit Suburban Hotel. At the time, luncheon theatres were virtually non-existent, yet our young company grew at an astounding rate, going from one Wednesday matinee a week to sold-out performances almost every day of the week—all within two years!
We soon realized however, that in order to provide the kind of quality and service we believed in, we would have to own our own facility. So, in 1979, with a renovation plan in place, we purchased the historic Hunterdon Hills Playhouse. But before the renovations got underway, the Playhouse was destroyed by fire. Since the property was now designated as a residential zone, we could not obtain a permit to rebuild there.
Undaunted, we searched for a new location and soon found the perfect spot—an enclosed 90-acre oasis of beautiful countryside, easily accessible, and only approximately two miles from the original site. On March 9, 1981, we finally realized our dream and opened our doors with the comedy Harvey, our first production at the new, custom designed and built Hunterdon Hills Playhouse.
Being so consumed with the construction of the theater, while simultaneously readying the shows that would be performed there, didn't leave much time to consider alternative uses of this new site. But not long after we opened, customers began raving about the beauty of our grounds and building, and began approaching us about having their banquets with us. In September 1981 we hosted our first wedding and have never stopped.
Since that time we have hosted thousands of various functions and events and have continued to grow, expanding our services and facilities (adding the Atrium Lobby, building our patio and gazebo, and doubling the size of our kitchen and ladies room to list a few examples) in an effort to better serve our customers. These efforts have earned us positive recognition from a host of prominent newspapers, magazines and television stations in the tri-state area.
Our success has been due to the support of our customers and the word-of-mouth advertising generated by their enthusiasm. We pledge to continue our history of providing excellence in everything we do. We assure you that every possible effort will be expended to guarantee you a wonderful time when you visit the Playhouse!