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.
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.