The Oscar Hammerstein Museum and Theatre Education Center (OHMTEC) in Doylestown received 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.
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. A total of $500,000 in matching funds were offered by the nonprofit’s Executive Committee. Over $567,000 was raised toward the match in total.
“We were excited and honored to receive this timely and generous donation from Mr. Pratt,” said Greg Roth, OHMTEC board president, on Tuesday. “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, as well as Andy Hammerstein, who in their conversations over the years, discussed the vision for this project. 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.”
Ronald Franklin Pratt was a public relations strategist and resident of Statesboro, Ga., 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, Pratt 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.
Pratt 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, grandson of Oscar Hammerstein II, on Facebook, and they became friends.
“It quickly became clear that he [Pratt] possessed both a vast knowledge of my family’s history and generous temperament,” said 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.”
In a statement issued by the Pratt Estate, Executor Lydia Lee Daley noted, “Ron’s passion was musical theater 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.
Following the purchase of the Highland Farm property, which will take place in coming weeks, fundraising will begin in earnest in order 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 theater education center on the property currently occupied by the historic barn.
To contribute, visit OHMTEC’s donation page at HammersteinMuseum.org. Naming opportunities are available for rooms and spaces in the house and barn.
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