Plans for Bucks County theater project have been unveiled - with song

The house where Oscar Hammerstein II once lived is part of a preservation effort to create a museum and theater-education center.

Plans to restore the old barn at the heart of the Hammerstein Center Project in Bucks County were unveiled Friday with much fanfare as theater star Doreen Taylor performed for local dignitaries and architectural drawings and floor and land plans were shared with reporters.

Camera icon Hammerstein Center Project
Doreen Taylor

Will Hammerstein and his wife, Mandee, are in the throes of a multimillion-dollar fund-raising effort to transform the Highland Farm in Doylestown Township into a museum. The project also includes plans for a theater and education center the Hammersteins hope to construct nearby.

Hammerstein’s theater-legend grandfather, Oscar Hammerstein II, bought a farmhouse, barn, and picturesque pastures that was a working cattle farm. There, he lived with his wife, Dorothy. It was also where, he created the book and lyrics for South Pacific, The King and I, Carousel, and Oklahoma! He also created the lyrics for The Sound of Music. His work is recognized for transforming American musicals by introducing drama into the narrative.

Camera icon Hammerstein Center Project
The Hammerstein family is trying to raise enough money to turn a barn into a museum.

Now his grandson wants to transform the estate, paying tribute to the history and influence the elder Hammerstein had in productions and the construction of one of the first theaters in Times Square, built by his great-grandfather, Oscar Hammerstein I.

Camera icon Hammerstein Center Project
The house where Oscar Hammerstein II lived is part of a preservation effort to create a museum and theater-education center.

During a visit to the area years ago, Will Hammerstein realized the barn and five acres that remain of the original farm were threatened by subdivision plans that could allow for the construction of condominiums. Instead, he proposed turning the barn into a museum to preserve history. His grandfather’s house already has been restored by Christine Cole, a Lehigh University psychology professor who bought the estate in 2007. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a bed and breakfast with Hammerstein-theme rooms.

Cole has agreed to sell the property to the nonprofit Hammerstein Project. Beyond more than $1.7 million needed to buy that property and adjacent land owned by a developer, it will take millions more to complete the project, Will Hammerstein said. Some money has been raised through a series of fund-raisers, including filmmaker JoAnn Young’s production of  Oscar Hammerstein II documentary, Out of My Dreams, where Will Hammerstein answers questions from the audience.

This holiday season, from Dec. 8 to 17, Taylor will star with Broadway performer Davis Gaines in an Off-Broadway New York cabaret production, An Enchanted Evening: A Night With Oscar Hammerstein II. Proceeds from the musical will benefit the project.

This story has been changed to correct terms of the agreement of sale.