The Back Story
Oscar and Dorothy Hammerstein moved to Highland Farm in 1940, with Oscar down on his luck. His luck soon changed when Richard Rodgers dropped by the farm for lunch, with designs on making Oscar his new writing partner. Over the next 19 years, Highland Farm became the birthplace for timeless Rodgers and Hammerstein classics, including: Oklahoma!, South Pacific, Carousel, King and I, and Sound of Music. He also mentored a young Stephen Sondheim there, who famously said, “in one afternoon at Highland Farm, I learned more about songwriting and musical theatre, than most people learn in a lifetime.” Mr. Hammerstein was also an active citizen, who devoted seven hours a day to the theatre and one hour to society.
Oh What A Beautiful Mornin’ was the first Rodgers and Hammerstein song Oscar Hammerstein wrote. Listen to the lyrics. Think of it as a love song to the beauty and renewed optimism Oscar found at Highland Farm.
The Hammersteins sold Highland Farm in 1961. The years since have seen good times and bad. In the 1970’s and 80’s, paint peeled off the walls, stucco cracked, vines climbed the house and rusted cars and old farm equipment littered the property. In 1976, eminent domain reduced the farm to 5 acres. In the 1990’s, an angel came to the rescue, restoring and transforming Highland Farm into a beautiful bed and breakfast. Then, the farm across East Rd., where the corn grew as high as an elephant’s eye, was turned into an office complex. Then in 2006, a four-lot subdivision was approved, but thankfully not executed, due in no small part to our fight for a better outcome. Finally, in November 2016, we got permission to create a museum at Highland Farm. So, Highland Farm is at a fork in the road, with two possible outcomes; another subdivision or The Oscar Hammerstein Museum.
The place where Oscar Hammerstein lived and worked on the Rodgers and Hammerstein hits Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music is threatened by a 4-lot subdivision. While we recently won approvals for an on-site museum, we still need to raise $2MM in the next year or the subdivision could take its place. The final goal is $10MM over 5 years, so this is a mountain we must climb together. Please help us prevent the subdivision with a small donation.
Museum Use Approved!
Zoning approval creates an opportunity for an inspiring museum experience. To seize it, we must purchase the farm, restore the house for tours and the bank barn for a browsing museum and fill it with illuminating exhibits. Later, we aspire to build a new theatre, where the Hammerstein legacy of great musical theatre, social engagement and mentorship can be honored! But, we rely on the generosity of people like you! Please help us seize the opportunity with a small donation.
The Proposed Museum Experience
First, we will present a short film of Oscar’s life from 1895-1940. It will include stories of his grandfather, Oscar I, father of Times Square, his father Willie, a leading vaudeville producer, his uncle Arthur, who took Oscar under his wing after he quit law school to enter the theatre, his 13 years of failure (and persistence) following a string of great successes in the mid-late 1920’s and other significant events leading up to his arrival in Doylestown.
The second part of your journey through Oscar’s life will be a tour of the historic home. Because Oscar lived at the farm for 20 years and wrote 5 landmark musicals there, there are too many stories to tell in a short time. So, stories will be limited to those related to a “featured show.’ So, if Oklahoma! is featured, guides will limit stories to the Oklahoma! period. And 5 smash hits, means 5 great reasons to come back!
Self-guided Museum Area
Now that you have soaked up the short film and the guided tour, it’s time to go off on your own and do some exploring inside the converted bank barn. You will wander through a rich array of interactive, multimedia exhibits featuring: Oscar I, Oscar II, his mentors, collaborators, and protégés, with special attention paid to Stephen Sondheim and of course, Richard Rodgers. There will be an area devoted to the featured show.
At this point, you know just about everything you can learn in one day about the featured show. Now it’s time to sit back, relax and watch the show! You will feel like it’s opening night and you were behind the scenes when the show was being written! We will have the best-educated audience that ever saw a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical!
With Invaluable Support from…
Founders ($50,000 or more)
Richard and Donna Shindell
Platinum ($5,000 or more)
Hannah (Happy) and Samuel Shipley
Melinda and Bill Walsh
Gold ($1,000 – $4,999)
Bruce and Mary Kay Buchsbaum
Stephanie A. Chuipek, M.D.
Tom J. Dodd
Mr. and Mrs. Richard F. Hershey
Margaret and Greg Roth
Beth Snyder DMD
CURRENT AND FORMER SPONSORS