One Man’s Vision in Stone

Opus 40

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.

Monolith
Opus 40
Opus 40

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.

Opus 40 museum
Opus 40
Build your own area
Build your own area
Saugerties sculpture park
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7 Responses to One Man’s Vision in Stone

  1. Donna Janke says:

    What an interesting place and an incredible project in a lovely landscape! I’d not heard of Opus 40 before. It is certainly something I’d want to see if I were to be to travel to the Catskills.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. He did a truly great thing. He made the world a better place for a whole lot of people.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How sad Mr. Fite did not reach 40 years with his project, but what an accomplishment and beautiful work he left. I’d very much enjoy seeing this in person, great photos!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is so wonderful, Ken! Another place to add to the list — I really admire the rock work artistry. Fabulous.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh my god how wonderful. Right up my alley!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pam Lazos says:

    Wow, Ken, you continue to amaze me with your incredible art finds. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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