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Bucks County couple save historic New Hope playhouse

Kevin and Sherri Daugherty, through their nonprofit Bridge Street Foundation, bought the building, which has been sitting empty since late 2010. The plan is to reopen it for this summer's theater season.

A Bucks County couple have saved the historic Bucks County Playhouse by paying cash to acquire the building, which has been sitting empty, in the hands of a bank, since late 2010.

Though the sale contained a do-not-disclose agreement, Stonebridge Bank sales agent James Gorecki said Kevin and Sherri Daugherty, who acted through their nonprofit Bridge Street Foundation, paid less than the $2.10 million asking price. The initial price was $2.79 million.

The playhouse will be managed by the Bucks County Playhouse Conservancy, a nonprofit group with the primary mission of saving the playhouse, under the auspices of conservancy founder Peggy McRae and board member and Broadway producer Jed Bernstein.

The reopening of the theater is expected in time for a summer 2012 season, according to a statement by those involved in the deal.

About $2 million has been secured - between the foundation and the conservancy - to make much-needed renovations to the theater, including a new roof and fire-alarm system, said project manager Mary Acciani.

Once the playhouse is again open, a capital campaign will likely be launched to address aesthetic improvements, Acciani said Monday evening.

The playhouse, in an 18th-century grist mill on New Hope's Main Street, was founded by a group of local artists and theater enthusiasts, including the playwright Moss Hart, in 1939. The group was eager to bring a touch of Broadway to the pastoral community, 90 minutes from New York City, where many prominent literary and cultural figures summered and spent weekends.

The 450-seat theater, which has featured performances by Grace Kelly, Robert Redford, and others, closed in 2010 after the bank holding its mortgage shut it down.

Its longtime owner, Ralph Miller, 64, operated Bucks County Playhouse for more than 30 years until he fell into debt and his mortgage holder seized the theater last year.

The Daughertys also purchased the former Playhouse Inn property next to the playhouse, but will work on that building as a long-term project, according to the statement.

Kevin Daugherty is founder of Speyside Equity, a Philadelphia-based private equity firm, while his wife is the owner of Angel Hearts, a women's boutique in Newtown. The pair founded Bridge Street Foundation "to support the local community through the acquisition of important historic landmarks and aiding in their transition to self-sustaining contributors to the community." They recently acquired First Baptist Church in Lambertville, just over the bridge in New Jersey, and renamed it Lambertville Hall.

Inquirer staff writer Bill Reed contributed to this article.