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LaVO: The hills come alive

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02.12.2019

The Trapp Family Singers who fled the Nazis performed in Doylestown at the outset of World War II.


A few years ago, I discovered a couple of county connections to the story of the famous Trapp family singers who fled Nazi-occupied Austria for the United States in 1938.

One is Aldie, the grand tudor mansion in Doylestown of sculptor William Mercer, brother of Henry Chapman Mercer who built the borough’s fabulous Fonthill Castle. The Trapp Family singers entertained at Aldie on Dec. 22, 1941 — just two weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that thrust the U.S. into mortal combat with Japan, Italy and Nazi Germany in World War II.

The other Bucks connection is playwright Oscar Hammerstein II. He was living in hilltop Doylestown two miles from Aldie when the Trapps performed. Seventeen years later he wrote the lyrics and playbook for Broadway-bound “The Sound of Music” and movie based on the Trapp family. I’ve long wondered if he got his inspiration at Aldie.

My daughter Genevieve, family friend Wynne Wert and I recently visited to get some answers. The Gatsby-esque mansion is the headquarters of the Heritage Conservancy. Elizabeth Barmach and Alexandra Dashkiwsky of the Conservancy showed us around the home built in 1927.

In the Grand Hall where the Trapps performed from a balcony, speculation abounded about a linkage between the Mercer........

© The Intelligencer