Pictured Above: Oscar Hammerstein during auditions for “Here We Go!”, the preliminary name for Oklahoma. Photo Credit: The New York Public Library.
Funding Secured for Hammerstein Museum, Saving Lyricist's Home
NEWSROOM POST: DOYLESTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA
(DOYLESTOWN, PA) – Tuesday, August 1st, 2023 – The Oscar Hammerstein Museum and Theatre Education Center (OHMTEC) announced today a $500,000 gift from the Estate of philanthropist Ronald Franklin Pratt that will allow the nonprofit to secure Highland Farm, Hammerstein’s family home and creative epicenter in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. For the past several weeks, OHMTEC has been engaged in a matching gift fundraising campaign to raise the remaining $1 million necessary to purchase the property. $500,000 in matching funds were offered by the nonprofit’s Executive Committee. Over $567,000 was raised towards the match in total.
Pictured Above: Oscar Hammerstein II in his study where he wrote most of his lyrics and fought for racial equality every day. Photo Credit: Contributed.
“We were excited and honored to receive this timely and generous donation from Mr. Pratt,” said Greg Roth, OHMTEC board president. “He leaves a wonderful legacy which will be providing future generations with the opportunity to learn about musical theater and Oscar Hammerstein’s notable works, and his messages of acceptance and inclusivity. We are grateful to Mr. Pratt, 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.”
Pictured Above: Highland Farm where Hammerstein lived and worked is located in Bucks County, PA. The area is a long established haven for Broadway theatrical professionals from New York City (1940’s). Photo Credit: Contributed.
Ronald Franklin Pratt was a public relations strategist and resident of Statesboro, Georgia until his death in July 2021. Having begun his career as a reporter/journalist in Savannah in 1971, Pratt spearheaded the largest public relations firms in San Francisco, providing expertise in crisis management and strategic development. As a journalist, Ron received numerous honors for his investigative reporting, including an Associated Press Enterprise award for a radio feature on the Watergate break-in. He was a winner of the IABC Gold Quill, one of the highest honors in business communication.
Pictured Above: A close up of Highland Farm current day. Photo Credit: Contributed.
Ron was very active in the arts, including serving as president of the Hilton Head Institute for Arts, director of the Hilton Head Jazz Festival and as VP for the San Francisco Council on Entertainment. He became acquainted with Oscar “Andy” Hammerstein and William Hammerstein, grandsons of Oscar Hammerstein II, on Facebook, and the three became friends. “It quickly became clear that he [Pratt] possessed both a vast knowledge of my family’s history and generous temperament,” said Andy Hammerstein. “He was a genuine rarity – a true gentleman. Years later, when I had booked a talk based upon Oscar Hammerstein’s politics, Ron flew from Savannah, Georgia to attend. As it was a ragged maiden voyage of a presentation, I assured him it was understandably miss-able. And yet there he was, offering generous support. I honestly feel like a lucky man to have known him.”
Pictured Above: Grandson, former Board Member and Founder of the proposed Hammerstein Museum project sitting on his grandfather’s iconic porch with then infant son, Oscar Hammerstein IV. Photo Credit: Sourced.
William Hammerstein, founder and former Board Member of the Hammerstein Museum project stated – “Ronald Pratt’s generosity was only surpassed by his knowledge of Oscar Hammerstein and Broadway history in general. We had planned on curating the museum together. And while he told me he had provided a significant bequest in his will, I had no idea it would be this generous. He was obviously a very special person.”
In a statement issued by the Pratt Estate, Executor Lydia Lee Daley noted, “Ron’s passion was musical theatre and he especially loved Oscar Hammerstein and his productions. He would be thrilled to know he had a part in helping fund the future of the museum and education center.”
Oscar Hammerstein II lived with his family at Highland Farm for the last 20 years of his 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, and where he mentored a young Stephen Sondheim. Over 75 Academy Awards, Grammy Awards, Tony Awards, and Pulitzer Prizes can be directly traced back to Highland Farm.
OHMTEC’s mission is to honor the Broadway legend’s groundbreaking work as a lyricist, librettist, mentor, and humanitarian and to educate and inspire the next generation of theatre aficionados, with special opportunities for diverse and underserved communities. The nonprofit’s vision is to purchase, restore and preserve the historic property and create a multifaceted and dynamic museum experience with a strong theatre education component.
Following the purchase of the Highland Farm property which will take place in coming weeks, fundraising will begin in earnest to commence the next phase of the project: preparing physical infrastructure for public use, restoring the historic home, and curating the museum. The fundraising target for this third phase is estimated to be at least $1,500,000. The fourth and final phase of the project will be to create a theatre education center on the property currently occupied by the historic barn.
Pictured Above: Jerome Kern, Paul Robeson, Oscar Hammerstein. Photo Credit: The New York Public Library
Hammerstein’s role as a mentor and humanitarian will play a large role in the forthcoming theatre education center. Plans include a youth theater company; classes in theater, dance, and music production; mentorship programs for young adults and emerging professionals; school programming; writer’s retreats; and outreach programs for all ages, both in-person and virtual. Consistent with the nonprofit’s goal to provide learning opportunities for all, programming fees will be on a sliding scale, and no one will be turned away.
Individuals and entities interested in being a part of this legacy project can visit OHMTEC’s donation page at HammersteinMuseum.org. Contributions of any amount can be made by check, credit card or appreciated securities. Naming opportunities are available for rooms and spaces in the house and barn. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.