ARTHUR HAMMERSTEIN: THEATER PRODUCER AND GENTLEMAN FARMER


Our guest contributor this week is Pat Barch, the Hoffman Estates Historian.  This column originally appeared in the July 2018 issue of the Hoffman Estates Citizen, the village’s newsletter.  The column appears here, courtesy of the Village of Hoffman Estates.

He was born in New York City and started his working career as a bricklayer and plasterer, working with his father to build the Victoria Theater and the Manhattan Opera House.  But in 1908 he began to move into the family musical business of producing operettas, musical productions and Broadway Theater. His father was theater impresario and composer Oscar Hammerstein I.  He had the theater and music in his blood.

His first production would be Naughty Marietta.  Arthur produced the operettas The Firefly (1912), Katinda (1915) and Rose-Marie (1924).  Rose-Marie was a production that he collaborated on with his nephew, Oscar Hammerstein II.

One of his most successful musicals was Wildflower (1923). With this success and his marriage to silent movie star Dorothy Dalton, Arthur built a beautiful home in 1924 in the Borough of Queens, New York. He called it Wildflower.  Built by architect Dwight James Baum, Arthur had only 6 short years to enjoy his beautiful Wildflower.  With the onset of the Depression and musical failures, Arthur had to sell the house in 1930 hoping to avoid bankruptcy.  Arthur’s sale of the house in 1930 did not help him; he declared bankruptcy in 1931 and retired from the theater. The Wildflower was designated a New York Landmark in 1982.  (Arthur and Dorothy are the couple on the left in the above photo. Her parents, John and Lillian Dalton, are to the right. The assumption is that this is their wedding day.)

Arthur produced almost 30 musicals in 40 years in show business.  He once again became well known when the song he wrote in the 1940s, Because of You, would become a hit when singer Tony Bennett recorded it in 1951 and it remained # 1 on the Top Ten for 10 weeks.

By this time Arthur Hammerstein and his wife Dorothy Dalton were living on their farm in what would soon be Hoffman Estates.  They purchased the 275 acre farm from John and Edwin Gieseke in 1943.

Could Arthur have written Because of You while living here on their farm?  Was it for Dorothy?  Giving up his New York theatrical life was not easy for him.  He called the farm Headacres, although it was officially called Cardoa Farm, and claimed that the farm was Dorothy’s project.  Dorothy disagreed and said that he loved his life as a farmer.

The quiet country life gave him time to tinker and invent small practical things. He had a work shop filled with tools, lathes, saws and drills. He received a patent for his moisture proof salt and pepper shakers that could be used by campers, the military and anyone who wanted to keep their salt dry.  Having had a career in construction and bricklaying, he enjoyed working on small projects around the farm.  How much time he spent at the farm is not known.  He loved Broadway and missed his friends there.

Upon Arthur’s death on Oct. 12, 1955, Dorothy sold the farm to F & S Construction and moved back to her family in New York.

Having two very famous people such as Dorothy Dalton and Arthur Hammerstein living in what would become our community center and first municipal complex adds to the historical stories we can tell about Hoffman Estates.

Pat Barch
Hoffman Estates Village Historian
eagle2064@comcast.net

Our guest contributor this week is Pat Barch, the Hoffman Estates Historian.  This column originally appeared in the July 2018 issue of the Hoffman Estates Citizen, the village’s newsletter.  The column appears here, courtesy of the Village of Hoffman Estates.

One Response to “ARTHUR HAMMERSTEIN: THEATER PRODUCER AND GENTLEMAN FARMER”

  1. Mark Vassmer Says:

    Thanks. I remember riding my bicycle down Illinois Bld from what was Mohawk st. (Now Mohave?) to what was was the Village building. So interesting knowing the history of the building and it’s family.

    Mark Vassmer Springfield il.

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