The 1840 farmhouse in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where Stephen Sondheim was taught the fundamentals of writing musicals by Oscar Hammerstein, is being sold by its current owner. Highland Farm – Hammerstein’s home, where he wrote Oklahoma!, South Pacific and The King and I, and where he died on 23rd August 1960 – has been a bed and breakfast for a number of years but its owner, Christine Cole, has put it back on the market.
Sondheim’s mother also owned a home in Bucks County, and the young Steve would escape her by spending time in the company of the Hammersteins, eventually being taken under Oscar’s wing and given a priceless education in show writing.
The realtor selling the home lists its numerous features: “original leaded glass windows, a hand-carved fireplace in the library and period moldings”… “hand-painted wallpaper and floor stenciling”… “a pear-shaped pool (Hammerstein’s favorite fruit) with cabana”… “Har-Tru tennis court, carriage house, wine cellar and bank barn”.
According to a report in the New York Post, there have been a number of requests for the home to be turned into a museum, but currently none of those interested in preserving it have the funds – or permission – to make this happen. Journalist Michael Riedel has suggested that the theatre community starts a crowdfunding drive to purchase the property, calling on Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sir Cameron Mackintosh to support the idea financially. Hammerstein’s grandson William estimated that the cost to convert the site to a museum would be around $20 million, but his idea to convert the farmhouse was scrapped after complaints from locals about the disruption that this would bring to the area.
Have you got a few million dollars to spare? As yet, no such crowdsourcing project has been initiated, but given the Sondheim Society’s success on Kickstarter with Hey, Old Friends! last year, perhaps we could get the ball rolling…?!