Fundraising campaign for the Oscar Hammerstein Museum and Theatre Education Center to honor the legacy of the Broadway legend

The non-profit Oscar Hammerstein Museum and Theatre Education Center (OHMTEC) has initiated a campaign to raise funds for the purchase, restoration, and preservation of Highland Farm in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, the former home and creative base of Broadway legend Oscar Hammerstein II. The mission is to honor Hammerstein’s work as a lyricist and librettist, and his legacy of mentorship and social activism, by increasing awareness of social issues and the need for tolerance of diversity.

Oscar Hammerstein II. Photo courtesy of Photofest.

Hammerstein and his wife Dorothy bought the 72-acre working farm in Bucks County, PA, in 1940, as the US faced the prospects of involvement in World War II. Like many NYC-based artists of the time, he was seeking a quiet place to work outside of the city, as well as a refuge should the conflict extend to America’s shores. For the last 20 years of his life, Hammerstein and his family lived there; it was the place where he forged his legendary partnership with Richard Rodgers and created many of their greatest musicals, including The Sound of Music, Carousel, The King and I, Oklahoma!, and South Pacific. More than 75 Tony Awards, Pulitzer Prizes, Academy Awards, and Grammy Awards can be traced back to the work done at Highland Farm.

Highland Farm. Photo by Grace Anne Alfiero.

It’s also the place where Hammerstein mentored the young emerging musician and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, who lived in Doylestown in his teens, was a classmate of Hammerstein’s son Jimmy, and a frequent visitor to their home. Sondheim later spoke of the great impact Oscar Hammerstein had on his life, noting 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 theater education center has already begun. Last year, OHMTEC held its first ever Hammerstein International Youth Solo Contest, which serves to educate young musical theater enthusiasts, ages 23 and under, about the tremendous influence Hammerstein had on the development of the modern Broadway musical. The inaugural event attracted 238 performers from 28 states and two countries.

OHMTEC aerial rendering. Photo courtesy of OHMTEC.

With the goal of creating a multifaceted and dynamic museum experience with a strong theater 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 is using the hashtag #SaveOscarsHome as one way to build awareness.

Among the growing list of luminaries who have joined the organization’s Honorary Advisory Board are actress Shirley Jones; Ted Chapin, the former head of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization; Melinda Mathias Walsh, granddaughter of Hammerstein; actress, author, and 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 and singer Justin Guarini; teen actress Kassie Mundhenk; and, most recently, Grammy award-winning singer and actor Jonathan Groff.

A fundraising gala, hosted by Ted Chapin and featuring Broadway stars Christy Altomare (Anastasia), Derek Klena (Jagged Little Pill), and Justin Guarini (American Idol), is planned for July 11, 2022. Tickets will be available to the general public starting on April 30, on the OHMTEC website. For information on sponsoring the event, please email the organization. Donations of any amount are welcome to support the project. A limited number of dedicated naming opportunities are being offered for rooms and spaces in the house and barn at Highland Farm. For information on availability and prices, email Secretary/Treasurer Christine Junker.

Previous articleDavid Strathairn returns to DC as heroic Holocaust witness Jan Karski
Next articleMetroStage gets a new venue called Venue
Deb Miller
Deb Miller (PhD, Art History) is the Senior Correspondent and Editor for New York City, where she grew up seeing every show on Broadway. She is an active member of the Outer Critics Circle and served for more than a decade as a Voter, Nominator, and Judge for the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre. Outside of her home base in NYC, she has written and lectured extensively on the arts and theater throughout the world (including her many years in Amsterdam, London, and Venice, and her extensive work and personal connections with Andy Warhol and his circle) and previously served as a lead writer for Stage Magazine, Phindie, and Central Voice.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here