Opus 40 History

1903 - Present

1903
1903

Before Harvey Fite, Bluestone Quarry Used for Flagging and House Trimmings

A shot of the old quarry at Opus 40 prior to Harvey Fite's arrival.
Production of the even-bedded and compact sandstone suitable for flagging and house trimmings known commercially as bluestone begins on the western side of the Hudson River in the southwestern part of Albany county and stretches southward through Greene, Ulster, Sullivan, Delaware and Broome counties. Van Bramer Brothers have a large quarry on the property that would come to be known as Opus 40. The quarry bed is eight to nine feet thick, six feet of..Read More
1930
1930

Harvey Fite Comes to Woodstock, joins Maverick Theater Company

Maverick Concerts
Harvey Fite came to Woodstock, NY and became a member of the Maverick Theater Company, an important regional theater. He will go on to join the Jitney Players, a touring company based in Baltimore, and then the Bulgakov Russian Theater in New York. He begins whittling backstage and soon discovers that the love of creating art with his hands outstrips his love of the theater. He gives notice. A professor from St. Stephens lets him..Read More
1933
1933

Harvey Fite Founds Fine Arts Department at Bard College

Fite and friends sitting in front of a building at Bard College
After a somewhat successful career as an actor, Harvey Fite joins Bard College and helps found its fine arts department. Initially, Fite teaches drama, but he soon becomes Bard’s professor of sculpture.
1938
1938

Harvey Fite Purchases the Opus 40 Property

Young Harvey lounging on deck.
Harvey Fite, one of the founders of the Bard College Fine Arts Department, purchases an abandoned quarry in the town of Saugerties, NY, in Ulster County, about 100 miles north of New York City. On this property, Harvey will construct Opus 40, a labyrinthine world of finely fitted stone swirling with ramps and terraces, constructed around pools, fountains and trees and rising out of bedrock a half mile deep, using dry keystone masonry techniques inspired..Read More
1938

Harvey Fite Buys Quarry From Rosalie Carlson

original quarry at Opus 40 site
Harvey Fite purchases a quarry from Rosalie Carlson, thinking at first only of using it as a source of stone for his carved sculpture.
1938

Harvey Fite Commences Construction on His Home on the Quarry

Fite house under construction, with man working on scaffolding.
The son of a carpenter, Harvey Fite begins building what will come to be known as The House on the Quarry, with help from local carpenters.
1939
1939

Harvey Fite Completes Construction of His Home on the Quarry

completed Fite house, behind the trees
1939

Harvey Fite Joins Archaeological Team Restoring Mayan Ruins in Copan

Harvey Fite restoring Mayan Ruins at Copan
Harvey Fite travels to Honduras with an archaeological team to help restore the Mayan ruins at Copan; inspired, Harvey begins to rethink the use of his quarry at home, wondering if he can teach himself to build with native bluestone, adapting some of the techniques used by the Mayans.
1940
1940

Harvey Fite Works on The Bather Statue

Harvey Fite, The Bather
While teaching at Bard, Harvey Fite begins work on The Bather, now shown at Opus 40. Fite began carving it in the sculpture studio at Bard and he finished it in his High Woods studio, possibly because he began work on the sculpture before the house studio was completely finished. 
1940

Harvey Fite Learns Dry Keystone Masonry

Harvey Fite in the quarry at Opus 40
Harvey Fite begins teaching himself dry keystone masonry, or laying stone without mortar, by trial and “lots of error.”
1943
1943

Harvey Fite Meets Future Wife Barbara Fairbanks

Barbara and Harvey Fite at Opus 40
Harvey Fite meets Barbara Fairbanks, a model and an actress, the daughter of painter Frank Perley Fairbanks, and mother to Jonathan and James “Tad” Richards.  
1944
1944

Harvey Fite Marries Barbara Fairbanks

Barbara Fairbanks Joins Harvey Fite at Opus 40
Harvey Fite marries Barbara Fairbanks Richards, who moves into the House on the Quarry with her two young boys, James and Jonathan.
1944

Harvey Fite, Sculptor, Quarryman, Professor

Harvey with boom
From 1944 through 1948, Harvey Fite continues to sculpt in his studio — now known as the main room in the House on the Quarry — while still teaching at Bard during the school year and working in the quarry each summer.
1944

Harvey Fite Sculpts Flame Statue

the sculpture entitled Flame in Fite's studio
Harvey Fite begins to construct his humanism-themed outdoor sculpture gallery of bluestone statues with Flame, carved in his at-home studio on what is today the Opus 40 grounds. It’s intended, he says, “to discuss civilizations. The bottom is Greek fluting, the pelvis is Oriental, the torso Renaissance, and the head and raised arms are totally abstract, going off into flame shapes so that the whole was meant to show a composite of cultures as they..Read More
1950
1950

Harvey Fite Solo Sculpture Shows in Paris and Rome

Harvey Fite in New York Times International Edition 1950
The following are commentaries on Harvey Fite’s solo show at the Galleria dell’Obelisco in Rome from Attilio Selva and Andrea Spadini, two of Italy’s foremost 20th-century sculptors: “From the sculptures of Harvey Fite which I have seen, all have given me the impression that the sculptor has not only avoided facile and exterior effects,  but he shows a method of work which should be unconditionally appreciated. Throughout the works which he has executed there runs..Read More
1952
1952

Harvey Fite Serves as Delegate to International Conference of Artists

Harvey Fite Serves as Delegate to International Conference of Artists
Harvey Fite serves as a delegate for Artists Equity to the International Conference of Artists in Venice, Italy, sponsored by UNESCO, where, for the first time, representatives of the visual arts discuss the challenges of creating art in an increasingly technical era.  
1955
1955

Harvey Fite Tours Asia to Study Sculpture

Fite looking at sculpture in Cambodia
Pictured: Harvey Fite in Cambodia.
1959
1959

Outdoor Sculpture Gallery Nearly Complete

Harvey outside Opus 40
The overall shape of Opus 40 has come into being, framing the majestic Overlook Mountain. Harvey Fite realizes he needs something epic to display at the epicenter.
1960
1960

Harvey Fite Builds New Studio in the Woods

Small white cabin in the woods, used as a studio
Harvey Fite builds a new studio in the woods, away from the house, to allow his former studio to serve as a living space in the main house, which now serves as the private home of Harvey’s stepson Tad and his wife Pat, and is occasionally used to host small concerts and other events.  
1963
1963

Harvey Fite Installs Opus 40’s Iconic Monolith

Opus 40 under construction
Harvey Fite transports a boulder from a nearby streambed from which to sculpt the centerpiece of his 6.5-acre bluestone sculpture. As written by Ralph Moseley in his Hunter College master’s thesis: “Once it had been transported to the spot, Fite tried to visualize what final effect it might have by constructing a small bamboo and cardboard scale model of it. The stone itself is fourteen feet long and weighs approximately nine tons, and considering this..Read More
1975
1975

Harvey Fite Builds Opus 40 Over 37 Years

Opus 40 by Escape Brooklyn
Harvey Fite works for 37 years on the world-famous 6.5-acre bluestone sculpture now known as Opus 40 and, during the nearly four-decade period, acquires additional land (totaling 70-plus acres today) and builds several structures including a beautiful large wood and stone home, studio, garage, blacksmith shop and the Quarryman’s Museum to house his unique collection of indigenous tools.
1976
1976

Harvey Fite Dies Working on Opus 40

Harvey Fite at Opus 40
Harvey Fite dies following a tragic accident while working on Opus 40. His New York Times obituary reads: “Harvey Fite, a sculptor, died yesterday after a fall into a quarry he had been converting into a sprawling sculpture garden He was 72 years old. Mr. Fite had been riding a power lawnmower and fell into the quarry from a 12-foot precipice on his property, the police said. Mr. Fite, who retired from Bard College in 1969, after..Read More
1978
1978

Barbara Fite Founds Opus 40, Inc.

Barbara and Harvey Fite
Barbara Fite, the wife of Harvey and a close collaborator throughout his labors, founds Opus 40, Incorporated as a 501 (c)3 nonprofit. She would lovingly administer Opus 40, Inc. in her husband’s honor until her own death in 1987.
1980
1980

Richie Havens Delivers Opus 40’s First-Ever Large Public Performance

Richie Havens
The first large public event at Opus 40 was a rainy evening show by Richie Havens, the rock great known for his riveting impromptu performance of “Freedom” at Woodstock in 1969. During his Opus 40 set a bolt of lightning crashed only 40 feet away, Havens would recall, and “I didn’t move, I just stayed there. People thought I was nuts.” When asked about Opus 40, Havens said, “I just has some kind of mystical..Read More
1984
1984

Orleans Labor Day Weekend Concerts

Orleans Labor Day Weekend Concerts
Orleans performs every Labor Day weekend for nearly 20 years at Opus 40, with crowds surpassing 1,200 attendees.
1986
1986

Sonny Rollins Breaks His Heel and Keeps Playing

Sonny Rollins Breaks His Heel and Keeps Playing
Jazz legend Sonny Rollins and his ensemble perform at Opus 40, with Rollins choosing the site because he felt the monument embodied Saxophone Colossus, his nickname and the title of his seminal 1956 album, and would provide a unique backdrop for an open-air jazz concert. The concert would be remembered (by VICE and others) not only for its world premiere of his new single “G-Man” but also for the artist’s dramatic fall, and his response..Read More
1986

Barbara Fairbanks Fite Dies

Opus 40
1987
1987

Pat and Tad Richards Lead Opus 40, Inc.

Pat and Tad Richards Lead Opus 40, Inc.
After the passing of Barbara Fite, her son James “Tad” Richards and his wife Pat took leadership at the nonprofit organization. They served in this capacity for more than 3 decades, stewarding the organization through many changes, and both annotating and preserving the legacy of Harvey Fite. Among Tad Richards’  many artistic contributions to the history of Opus 40 are remarkable jazz concerts (including Sonny Rollins), community music jams, legendary Labor Day concerts with Orleans..Read More
1996
1996

Harvey Fite Bust Installed at Bard College

Harvey Fite at Bard
Opus 40 creator Harvey Fite, a Bard College professor and the founder of the college’s fine arts department, is honored with a marble self portrait bust in Bard’s Charles P. Stevenson Jr. Library. The bust was a gift from Fite’s stepson Jonathan Richards and Claudia Jessup. Pictured: Harvey Fite discusses a student’s work in the Bard sculpture studio in fall 1966; Joseph Consentino Photography
2001
2001

Opus 40 Placed on National Historic Register

Opus 40
Opus 40 is added to the National Register of Historic Places, the official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects deemed worthy of preservation for their historical significance.
2006
2006

Opus 40 Featured by The New York Times

Opus 40 Featured by The New York Times
The New York Times writes an extensive article on Opus 40, stating, “In a culture of disposability that celebrates slackers, Opus 40 not only constitutes what Brendan Gill described in Architectural Digest in March 1989 as one of “the most beguiling works of art on the entire continent,” but stands as a monument to discipline and hard work. Harvey Fite, a self-taught sculptor who was born in 1903 and died in 1976, labored more than half..Read More
2016
2016

Garden Party with Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley

Garden Party with Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley
Many of the Hudson Valley’s most generous philanthropists and business and community leaders join at Opus 40 for the annual garden party of the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley, this year honoring Sue Hartshorn of Dutchess County and Gloria Turk, her son Steve and his wife Shelley of Ulster County for their extraordinary commitments to philanthropy and community service in the region.
2019
2019

Opus 40 and WDST Radio Woodstock Launch Sunset Sessions Concert Series

Opus 40 and WDST Radio Woodstock Launch Sunset Sessions Concert Series
Opus 40 and Radio Woodstock launch a series of free Friday evening concerts at Opus 40, drawing crowds of 300-plus music lovers to see performers such as Scruffy Pearls, Royal Khaoz and Braskill.
2020
2020

Performances at Opus 40 to date

Marching band playing on the Opus 40 monument
In its nearly 40 years of operation, Opus 40 has presented a range of remarkable performers. These performers have, in total, earned 93 Grammy Awards, 271 Grammy nominations, 23 Down Beat Awards for best performer, 8 NEA Awards, 3 W. C. Handy Awards, 1 Grammy Lifetime Award, 1 ASCAP Lifetime Award, 1 Kennedy Center Honors, 1 Academy Award, 3 Academy Award nominations, 1 National Medal of Arts and 1 McArthur Genius Grant. They include 2..Read More