Sunday, May 7, 2017

OH, WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING

I have mentioned numerous times that New Hope and Doylestown have had lots of colorful residents. One of them was song writer and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein.  No surprise all us twinkle toes around here love that fact. About a week ago I finally went to see the estate, now a B&B.
While the history of the house is itself interesting, it is the tale of its residents and guests that make for true story-telling. At the turn of the 20th century, the Lenz circus family bought Highland Farm and housed many of their animals here. In fact, you can still find the baby elephant pool that Mr. Lenz used to bathe his little pachyderms. In 1941, during a lull in his career, Oscar Hammerstein II and his wife, Dorothy, came to Bucks County looking for a retreat from New York City. While driving up the hill to Highland Farm, Dorothy spotted a rainbow and sensed this would be a magical place for her professionally floundering husband and their family. The move proved immensely wise as the bucolic countryside here truly inspired Mr. Hammerstein. Legend is told that he was so moved by the views of scenery in the early morning that he was inspired to write, “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” the opening song for Oklahoma!, on the front porch. Arguably, his most famous works were written while residing at Highland Farm including South Pacific, The King and I, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music.
The Hammerstein family lived at Highland Farm for 20 years. During their residence, the home was constantly alive with many guests and children. Mr. Hammerstein was known to fly different colored flags as a message to the local children. One said, “Come and swim.” Another meant, “Let’s play tennis.” And still another said, “Stay away today.”  In addition to their own children, the Hammerstein’s were also known to take in other children in need of a home. As a young boy, Stephen Sondheim spent considerable time at Highland Farm and received his secondary education from The George School in Newtown, up the road from New Hope. Other guests include Mr. Hammerstein’s good friend, James Michener, and his long-time collaborator, Richard Rodgers,  Odette Myrtil, Joan Crawford, Helen Hayes, George Kaufmann, Moss Hart, Dorothy Parker, John Steinbeck,and Lillian Hellman.

Joan Crawford

Dorothy Parker and Husband at  Highland Farm

Oscar died at The Farm in August 1960 and was buried in New York. After his death, Dorothy moved from Highland Farm and sold it a year later. After passing hands several times, in 2007, Highland Farm was purchased by Doylestown resident, Christine Cole. While looking for a Bucks County barn to renovate, she was shown Highland Farm and instantly fell in love. Her business plans changed and she embraced the idea of becoming an innkeeper and starting a new venture. Since then it has become a lovely historic landmark for all to tour and stay at the B&B. How cool would it be to stay here???? I bet you could almost sense the good times that went on. Boy, I love this area.

24 comments:

  1. It would be wonderful to stay in a place like that for a weekend, or even one night. It looks lovely!

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  2. Lovely post! Yes, this area has so many things to be proud of. It's is truly amazing the history in this area. I only recently found out Stan Berenstain lived in the area also. Who knew? My kids had all his books.

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  3. I loved most of his musicals. I would get goosepimps seeing that house probably. If I recall, when I was in New Hope once, I seem to remember a street named Oscar Hammerstein Way?

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  4. As I've said before, I am so sorry I didn't know about New Hope in the '70s when I still lived in the Northeast! Too bad you weren't born yet. I sure missed out!

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    1. I love living here now, but could you imagine living here then? And it's very English countryside too. I have another post coming about another character who lived here later. I swear, I could do post for a month.

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  5. A great post! I like that unusual pic of Joan Crawford.

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    1. She sure was young there. They has a similar picture in the house of her, but not sure why, as his music wasn't featured in the film she did. Unless they collaborated on something together related to the story.

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  6. I've only seen pictures of Hammerstein in middle-age. He was a rather handsome young man.

    I believe that picture of Crawford is from the 1920s, when she was at her most beautiful (I say this as one who always preferred her rival Davis.)

    Parker looks a bit surprised, as if the photographer had been hiding around the corner.

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    1. When I was goggling for pictures of Hammerstein , that image popped up. Crawford was in the original Rose-Marie, without Hammerstein's music. Who knew they were friends.

      Dorothy Parker was quite a character. She too had a home here, and I have located it, but alas, it is not visible from the road, or open to the public.

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  7. 🎡🎢🎡 As a teacher I've been learning
    You'll forgive me if I boast
    And I've now become an expert,
    On the subject I like most.
    [Spoken] Getting to know you.
    [Singing] Getting to know you,
    Getting to know all about you.
    Getting to like you,
    Getting to hope you like me.🎼🎡🎢🎡

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  8. No wonder Oscar Hammerstein wrote these lyrics there, from your post on the area it is very picturesque. Very cool history too.

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  9. Thank you for another great tour!

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  10. Oscar Hammerstein II's house is a wonderful ...one of the Historic gems of your town.

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  11. An enchanted evening for sure! And what a like best is that the place isn't over the top. When I lived in the Philly area, it always was shocking to see how the different classes got along in New Hope and Doylestown.

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  12. I want one of those "stay away today" flags.

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    1. What about a "stay away apron" if you don't have a flagpole?

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  13. What a charming welcome and a bit of history for added measure. It is a quaint little place isn't it.

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  14. I couldn't imagine a more genteel country house, Mistress. Nor could I imagine elephants hanging around the vicinity!

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  15. He certainly had some colorful high brow friends heh?

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  16. Beautiful retreat into the world of Oscar Hammerstein. We need a weekly outing like this!! Love the history too.

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  17. I'd be hearing the piano echoing through the house....

    Happy Monday, mistress. Hugs!!!!

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Go ahead darling, tell me something fabulous!

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