Disagreement in Doylestown Over Former Home of Legendary “Sound of Music” Songwriter

A proposal to convert Highland Farm Bed & Breakfast into a museum has struck the wrong chord.
Left: Oscar Hammerstein II. Photo via Wikimedia Commons. Right: Highland Farm. Photo via Highland Farm B&B website

Left: Oscar Hammerstein II. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Right: Highland Farm. Photo via Highland Farm B&B website

Will Hammerstein, grandson of songwriter Oscar Hammerstein II (he of The Sound of Music, Oklahoma!, and King and I fame), wants to convert his grandfather’s home in Bucks County into a museum with a 400-seat theatre called the Oscar Hammerstein II Music & Theatre Education Center. His plan also includes a parking lot that would be able to hold about “100 cars and several buses” for visitors looking to get a “classic Broadway fan experience,” according to Kathy Matheson at the Associated Press.

The property is, after all, steeped in musical history–what with Hammerstein having purchased it in 1940 and living there for twenty years. He penned many of his works there, most notably “The Sound of Music,” which was a collaboration with creative partner Richard Rodgers. Highland Farm, currently a bed & breakfast, also saw the likes of Stephen Sondheim (Into the Woods, West Side Story) walk through its doors as he was a friend of Hammerstein’s son.

For all this, some nearby residents aren’t exactly cheering for the proposed $20 million development because of the potential “noise, traffic, and stormwater runoff” issues it could bring with it. Three Doylestown Township officials have also not warmed to the idea, which is seen as being “too much development” for the 5-acre parcel.

Will a NIMBY battle block the project? Neighbors concerned about the above-mentioned problems have already hired an attorney. Plus, Matheson notes, fundraising for the development could also prove to be an obstacle, although Hammerstein has already “incorporated a nonprofit to help on that front.”

For what it’s worth some residents are excited about the possible center:

Members of the local arts council have expressed enthusiasm for the project, as it would add cachet to a region that boasts the James A. Michener Museum and Pearl S. Buck House — authors who were good friends with Oscar Hammerstein.

A zoning hearing is scheduled for January 12th.

Oscar Hammerstein museum plan hits sour note for some in Doylestown [Times Herald]