The nonprofit Oscar Hammerstein Museum and Theatre Education Center (OHMTEC) is raising funds to purchase, restore, and preserve Highland Farm in Doylestown, Oscar Hammerstein II’s former home and creative epicenter.
The mission is to honor Hammerstein’s work as a librettist and lyricist, and his legacy of mentorship and social activism.
In 1940, as the United States faced the prospects of entering World War II, Oscar and his wife, Dorothy, bought the seventy-two-acre working farm.
Like many New York-based artists of the time, Hammerstein was seeking a quiet place to work outside of the city, as well as a refuge should the conflict come to American shores.
The Hammerstein family lived at Highland Farm for the last 20 years of Oscar’s life.
This is the place where he forged his legendary partnership with Richard Rodgers and that inspired many of their greatest musical works, including The Sound of Music, Carousel, The King and I, Oklahoma! and South Pacific.
Here, Hammerstein wrote the lyrics to songs loved the world over, including the final lyrics he wrote before his death, “Bless my homeland forever,” from the song “Edelweiss” in The Sound of Music.
It is also the place where Hammerstein mentored a young Stephen Sondheim, and where he contributed to society by increasing our awareness of social issues and the need for tolerance of diversity, as illustrated in songs like “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught,” from South Pacific.
Over 75 Academy Awards, Grammy Awards, Tony Awards, and Pulitzer Prizes can be directly traced back to Highland Farm.
As a young emerging musician and lyricist in his teens, Sondheim lived in Doylestown, and during his time here he met and was mentored by Hammerstein.
“Stevie” was a classmate of Oscar’s son, Jimmy, and a frequent visitor to the Hammerstein home.
Sondheim often spoke of the great impact Oscar Hammerstein had on his life.
He stated that he learned more about writing songs in one afternoon with Oscar than most people learn in a lifetime.
Although Highland Farm is currently privately owned and not yet open to the public, the work of the theatre education center has already begun.
Last year, OHMTEC held its first ever Hammerstein International Youth Solo Contest.
The contest serves the very important job of educating young musical theatre enthusiasts about the tremendous influence Oscar Hammerstein II had on the development of the modern Broadway musical as we know it.
The inaugural event attracted 238 performers from 28 states and two countries.
Early results from 2022 applications reveal participation from six countries.
A growing list of luminaries have joined the nonprofit’s Honorary Advisory Board, including actress Shirley Jones, who said, “I owe my career to Oscar Hammerstein.”
Other notables on the board include Ted Chapin, the former head of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization; Melinda Mathias Walsh, granddaughter of Hammerstein; actress/author/film and television producer Mariel Hemingway; English actor and producer Gerald Charles Dickens; National Medal of the Arts recipient Morten Lauridsen; Broadway and television actor/singer Justin Guarini; teen actress Kassie Mundhenk; and most recently Grammy award-winning singer/actor Jonathan Groff.
With the goal to create a multifaceted and dynamic museum experience, with a strong theatre education component, serving as a place of inspiration for Broadway fans and humanitarians alike, OHMTEC has raised nearly $1 million towards the purchase of Highland Farm.
The project is the recipient of a $500,000 matching grant from the state of Pennsylvania.
An additional $1 million is needed to complete this first phase of the project, so that the home can be opened to the public as a museum. OHMTEC has coined the hashtag: #SaveOscarsHome as one way to build awareness.
A fundraising gala, featuring Broadway stars Christy Altomare (Anastasia), Derek Klena (Jagged Little Pill) and Justin Guarini (American Idol), hosted by Ted Chapin is planned for July 11th.
Tickets are available to the general public on OHMTEC’s website, hammersteinmuseum.org.