"One of the largest and most beguiling works of art on the entire continent." So said Brendan Gill In the March 1989 edition of Architectural Digest
. What was he describing? This place
Opus 40 was the life-long work of Harvey Fite, a sculptor and academic who, in 1938, bought an abandoned bluestone quarry near Woodstock, NY, in the shadow of the Overlook Mountain
Born in 1903, Fite was a fascinating man, who had been to law school, studied for the ministry and performed in a travelling theatre group before becoming an archaeologist and sculptor. He first became intrigued by the technique of dry key stone masonry as a member and the quarry of an archeological team restoring the Mayan ruins in Copan, Honduras
, in the 1930s. When he bought the 12-acre piece of land that now contains Opus 40, his idea was to create a platform for his organic, Henry Moore-style sculptures
. (Second photo taken by me)
But as his series of dry-stone platforms and terraces evolved, Fite realised that the terraces themselves had become their own work of art. So he left them as they were, grand platforms, and erected a monolith in the centre, using an A-frame to haul it into place. It forms the centrepiece of Opus 40, drawing visitors around its sloping terraces to view it from different angles
The result is a place that is both primitive and modern, organic and structured.
The name Opus 40 reflects Harvey Fite's plan to finish his work in 40 years. It did not come to pass. He died in 1976, 37 years after beginning work on Opus 40, whilst mowing his lawn.
Today Opus 40 is open to the public
, and the quarry has been left as it was
when Harvey Fite last worked on it, 32 years ago. (My photo)