Thursday, July 22, 2010

Opus 40

The Town of Saugerties library sponsored a free evening at Opus 40 last night so I went with my family.

If you haven't been there, it's an incredible bluestone "sculpture" covering 6 acres of an old bluestone quarry and the vision of a single man - Harvey Fite (1903-1976).  Fite got a job teaching art at Bard College and purchased 13 acres around the present site, with beautiful views of nearby Overlook Mountain, for $250 (!) in 1938.  He built a house overlooking the quarry and started creating this environmental scuplture (without, at first, realizing its eventual complexity).  Later he named it Opus 40 since he planned on spending 40 years to complete it.  He almost made it, dying 3 years shy of his goal when he accidently drove his lawn tractor off a wall into the quarry.

Fite was inspired by Mayan stonework, done completely without mortar, and built most of the structure single-handedly with typical 19th century quarryman tools.  You have to walk around the site to appreciate what an amazing achievement this was - and you start to realize it probably wasn't that difficult to build many of the ancient monuments around the world.  If one man can build Opus 40 in 37 years, Mayan laborers could certainly have built their ancient cities in a couple of decades.

Negotiations are on-going for the Town of Saugerties to acquire the site since the stepson of Fite, Thad Richards, who has been operating the site as a non-profit, is now of retirement age and planning for its future preservation.  Here are some pictures...

As you approach the monument

The monument (thunderstorms were rolling through the area)

Beautiful stonework

Stonework abutting natural quarry wall
It's impossible to get it all in one photo

Here's a great aerial photo of the entire site.

There's some interesting geology visible there too if you know what to look for...

Beautiful glacial striations & polishing on top of the quarry

An ancient stream channel fossilized in the quarry wall

Woody plant fossil material in one of the bluestone pavers

I'll write more about Catskill bluestone at some point.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful pictures, and we always want to know more about the geology of Opus 40.

    Tad Richards