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Hammerstein Museum and Education Center now owns Highland Farm

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Accepting the keys to the former home of Oscar Hammerstein II in Doylestown Monday, Greg Roth was moved to quote the celebrated lyricist and humanitarian.

“These will truly become my favorite things,” said the president of the board of directors of the Oscar Hammerstein Museum and Theatre Education Center, echoing the title and lyrics of one of the most famous songs from “The Sound of Music,” with music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.

Moments earlier, with a nod to Lin Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton,” Roth announced in the living room of Highland Farm, “the place where it happened,” the completion of the purchase.

The announcement and handover of the keys came during a celebratory event that featured the select choir from Lenape Middle School in Doylestown. A dozen students dressed in red and black performed Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from “Carousel” and “Do-Re-Mi” from “The Sound of Music” under the direction of Jaime Rogers, a member of the nonprofit’s board.

OHMTEC “officially purchased Highland Farm, the homestead and creative epicenter of Oscar Hammerstein II,” just after 9 a.m. Monday, Roth said during the event attended by local political figures, Hammerstein relatives and other supporters. Roth thanked Christine Cole, who owned the property and ran a bed and breakfast there for many years, for the important part she played in the sale. Calling it a “momentous day,” Cole expressed her gratitude to all who were involved, especially Roth.

The purchase was made possible by financial support from hundreds of individuals and organizations across the country and the world, including a grant from the Miranda Family Fund, the charitable foundation of playwright and composer Lin Manuel Miranda, and the estate of philanthropist and Hammerstein family friend Ronald Franklin Pratt.

Additional funding was provided by the Bucks County Industrial Development Authority and the state of Pennsylvania through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP).

“Our nonprofit has not walked alone,” Roth said. “To the hundreds of financial donors large and small, we simply would not be here without you.”

Over 75 Academy Awards, Grammy Awards, Tony Awards, and Pulitzer Prizes can be directly traced back to Highland Farm, located at 70 East Road.

Dubbed the “Birthplace of the Modern American Musical,” Highland Farm was Hammerstein’s home and creative epicenter for the last 20 years of his life. It is where the Rodgers and Hammerstein collaboration was born and where they found inspiration for many of their works, including “South Pacific,” based on the novel by author James Michener, a Doylestown native.

It was also at Highland Farm that Hammerstein met and mentored a young Stephen Sondheim, who has said, “In one afternoon [at Highland Farm], I learned more about songwriting than most people do in a lifetime.”

Miranda considered Sondheim a friend and mentor, and his family’s fund counts among its particular areas of interest increasing opportunities for artists of color.

OHMTEC’s mission is to honor the Broadway legend’s groundbreaking work as a lyricist, librettist, mentor, and humanitarian and to educate and inspire generations of creators and theater-lovers, with special opportunities for diverse and underserved communities. The nonprofit’s vision is to restore the historic property and create a multifaceted and dynamic museum` experience with a strong theater education component.

“We are so fortunate to have this piece of cultural history here,” said state Sen. Steve Santarsiero. “Now we have this gem that we’re going to be able to preserve for generations to come.”

With the purchase of Highland Farm completed, the nonprofit now moves on to fundraising for the next phase of the project: preparing physical infrastructure for public use, restoring the historic home, and curating the museum. The fundraising target for this third phase is estimated to be at least $1.5 million. The fourth and final phase of the project will be to create a theater education center on the property currently occupied by the historic barn.

A donor is providing a match for all gifts up to $90,000 through the end of the year. Naming opportunities are available for rooms and spaces in the house and barn. Donations can be made at hammersteinmuseum.org/donate. For information email hammersteinmuseum@gmail.com.

jarthur@buckscountyherald.com


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