In 1928, Harvey Fite paid $250 to buy an abandoned bluestone quarry in the middle of the woods in Saugerties, N.Y. Fite, a former actor, had come to the Catskills region of New York to assume a teaching position at Bard. He taught theater as well as his newest pursuit, sculpture. He became the founder of Bard’s College of Fine Arts. The old rock quarry would become Opus 40, the name based on Fite’s expectation that it would be 40 years of work. Fite worked on it for 37 years before suffering an accidental death at age 73 in 1976.
Opus 40 was built by Fite using dry stone construction, carefully fitting the stones together without mortar or cement. The technique makes it not susceptible to cracking, frost or erosion. Fite originally conceived of the site as a setting for his rock sculpture. He later came to the conclusion that the setting itself was the sculpture and he moved his rock sculpture into the surrounding wooded areas. The centerpiece of Opus 40 is the monolith. Fite had found the nine-ton bluestone column that sits atop the rock sculpture embedded in a nearby creek.
In normal times Opus 40 hosts some 20,000 visitors a year. In addition to the rock formation and sculptures there is a museum and gift shop. It has hosted concerts and weddings. Sonny Rollins and Richie Havens both played there and they each have parking lots at Opus 40 named after them. It is currently closed to the public although private tours can be arranged. Reopening of the sculpture park will depend on COVID regulations in the state.