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Kim Barker

A Preservation Report for Opus 40

          “Opus 40” is a six-and-a-half-acre, dry-stacked bluestone sculpture, situated in its original quarry and constructed by one man.  In 1937, Harvey Fite purchased the Saugerties, New York, site—between the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River—as a ready source of bluestone for carving, but soon began building outdoor display platforms for his figurative sculptures.  In the quarry, he built three elevated, drystone platforms, connecting them with steps, ramps, and terraces, and incorporating already existing pools and trees into the design.  In the 1960s, Fite raised a nine-ton monolith on the stonework as its culmination. Deciding not to carve the monolith, he removed the other figurative sculptures and “Opus 40” became a non-representational work.  In some sections, “Opus 40” reaches down to the quarry floor fifteen-feet below ground level and, at its culmination, rises over forty-feet above ground. 

            Although Harvey Fite envisioned his sculptural landscape as a forty-year project, its progress was cut short by his death in the thirty-seventh year of construction.  Soon after, his widow formed a non-profit organization, Opus 40, Inc., to oversee the conservation and management of “Opus 40,” and to it she donated the site.  It has been open to the public, on varying days, since.  Now nearly thirty years after Fite’s death, “Opus 4”0 exhibits various structural problems, including stone bulging and water infiltration.  The family continues to run Opus 40, Inc. and has provided invaluable assistance to this thesis project, meant to give context to “Opus 40” and provide present and future guidance in both site conservation and organizational management.

         The Preservation Report first explores the region’s rich cultural heritage, found in the bluestone quarrying industry of the nineteenth century, the Hudson River School of landscape painting, Byrdcliffe, and Maverick art colonies.  It includes a biography of Harvey Fite and a history of the site, specifically the development of “Opus 40,” construction of buildings and creation of a Quarryman’s Museum.  A condition assessment of the site and non-profit organization provide the basis for a preservation plan for future conservation and management, which utilizes the Ellsworth Rock Garden, Manitoga, and Olana as case studies.  The report incorporates an examination of “Opus 40’s” relationship to land art, intuitive art environments, cultural landscape preservation and heritage tourism.  “Opus 40,” both a Saugerties Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a wonderfully moving landscape I am honored to assist.



           Kim Barker received a BS in Interior Design from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  While completing her degree in Historic Preservation, Kim interned at the Unity Temple Restoration Foundation and the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. 


Thesis Advisor: Lisa Stone, Instructor, Art History, Theory, and Criticism; Curator, Roger Brown Home and Studio Collection

Thesis Reader: Mark Allsup

Second Reader: Tad Richards


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