A $500,000 gift from the estate of philanthropist Ronald Franklin Pratt has put The Oscar Hammerstein Museum and Theatre Education Center (OHMTEC) over the line on funding to buy Highland Farm, the Hammerstein family home in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. The group has been raising money to transform the site into a museum and theatre education center for a year.
“We were excited and honored to receive this timely and generous donation from Mr. Pratt,” says OHMTEC Board President Greg Roth. “He leaves a wonderful legacy which will be providing future generations with the opportunity to learn about musical theatre and Oscar Hammerstein’s notable works, and his messages of acceptance and inclusivity. We are grateful to Mr. Pratt, as well as Andy Hammerstein, who in their conversations over the years, discussed the vision for this project. This generous donation, along with those of all who have contributed along the way, is an important part of preserving and protecting this historic property and the legacy of Oscar Hammerstein, the lyricist, the librettist, mentor, and humanitarian.”
“Ron’s passion was musical theatre, and he especially loved Oscar Hammerstein and his productions," adds Pratt Estate Executor Lydia Lee Daley. "He would be thrilled to know he had a part in helping fund the future of the museum and education center.”
The Show Boat and Oklahoma! writer bought the farm in 1940, just as he was beginning his landmark collaboration with composer Richard Rodgers, as a quiet place to work outside of Manhattan. The property would become Hammerstein's creative epicenter and is where he wrote quintessential Broadway lyrics for "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'" and "Edelweiss."
Highland Farm is also the site where fellow theatrical legend Stephen Sondheim became Hammerstein's protégé. The composer-lyricist became acquainted with the Hammerstein family after Sondheim's mother moved them to an estate near the Hammersteins' farm, after which he became a frequent guest and friend to Hammerstein's son, Jimmy. The elder Hammerstein would ultimately take Sondheim under his wing, teaching him many of the basics of constructing musicals and advising him on his early career choices, including signing on to contribute lyrics to West Side Story despite Sondheim's reluctance to work on a project that wouldn't see him composing music.
Following the purchase of the home, OHMTEC plans to start another round of fundraising so that they can restore the historic home and prepare it for public use. The group has a goal of $1.5 million, with a fourth phase to follow for the creation of the theatre education center.