Located in Saugerties, NY, Opus 40 is quite possibly the single greatest sculpture garden ever created by one man. That man was Harvey Fite, a sculptor, actor, and professor at Bard College.
Harvey Fite was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Christmas Day of 1903. At the age of three he moved to Texas, where he spent his youth.
When he was twenty, he enrolled in Houston Law School, studying law for three years before dropping out and leaving for St. Stephen's College, later to be renamed Bard. There he found himself to be more attracted to theater than academics, and at the end of his third year at St. Stephen's he joined a traveling troupe of actors.
His true calling was sculpture, though, and by 1933 he had earned enough recognition as a sculptor to return to his alma mater as the director of the Fine Arts Division there. He kept this position until his retirement in 1969.
When he got his job at Bard, he felt it was time to settle down and look for a place where he could work on his sculpture in peace. In 1938 he found it.
It was an abandoned bluestone quarry in the woods on the outskirts of Saugerties, and he loved it. He started work on Opus 40 in 1939.
Fite used only traditional quarryman's tools in the making of his biggest project: hammers, chisels, drills, blasting powder, and a hand powered boom. The result was a stone wonderland akin to Jim Henson's Labyrinth. He built walkways, terraces and artificial ponds, and its amazing centerpiece, a ten foot tall ten ton monolith called Flame. Harvey placed each and every stone in the entire six-acre park perfectly, and they stay together without the use of any mortar or cement.
The name Opus 40 referred to the forty years that Fite intended to work on it for. After only 38 years of working on Opus 40, though, his work came to a tragic end. In 1976, he was mowing the lawn on the outskirts of his park. The gears jammed and he drove off one of his terraces, crushed under his tractor.
Today Opus 40 is maintained by a non-profit organization. There's a gift shop that sells post cards and other memorabilia there as well as the Quarryman's Museum. The museum displays the tools that Fite used as well as many other items that were used by quarrymen including blacksmithing, carpentry, and farming equipment. It also has a large selection of Fite's woodcarvings and other works of art including his smaller stone carvings.
Concerts and poetry readings are shown in Opus 40 regularly; you can see their schedule at www.Opus40.org.
If you're ever in Upstate New York, you should definitely check this place out.