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Dedicated to the Historic Preservation of the Site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival

THE WOODSTOCK SITE
Hurd & West Shore Rds
Sullivan County
Bethel  NY


 

Preservationists File Formal Document for Historic Status
The Towne Crier April 14-20, 2004

On April 8, the Woodstock Preservation Alliance submitted the 50-page document, “A Cause for Preservation,” in regard to the 1969 Woodstock Festival Site in Bethel to the state and federal historic preservation agencies. The group also submitted the document to the Bethel Planning Board and to the owner of the site, Gerry Foundation Inc. The WPA is hoping to have the Gerry Foundation leave the site of the original concert site largely undisturbed and formally protected through preservation even as plans for the Bethel Woods performing arts center move forward. Following is an excerpt from the document’s introduction; the full file is at WPA’s web site, www.thewoodstockspirit.org.

The case file addresses historic preservation issues arising from the submitted site plans for Phase 1 of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts as they pertain to the historic site of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Fair. In keeping with the principles articulated in the New York State Historic Preservation Plan, 2002-2006, we of the Woodstock Preservation Alliance (WPA) are acting to counter an imminent threat to the site’s historical integrity through insensitive commercial development proposed by the property owner, the Gerry Foundation, Inc. (GF). We believe the GF's current plan fails to safeguard the inherent value of the Woodstock Festival site. The goal of the WPA is to mitigate the intrusion into the defined boundaries of the historic site through the GF’s placement of the Phase 1 Core Building Complex (CBC) and Farmers’ Market by showing how these may feasibly be relocated to an alternative location nearby, which is already owned by the GF but is outside of the historical view shed of the Festival State Area and adjacent plateau.

The Woodstock Preservation Alliance remains concerned about the historic preservation of the property known worldwide as the site of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Fair. This property…has been identified as being of national cultural and historical significance by the authors of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement that was commissioned in 2001 by the Gerry Foundation. It includes the original Festival Stage Area field to the south and the adjacent upper plateau stretching north towards highway 17B. This property was later purchased by the GF and is included in the proposed 634-acre Performing Arts Center (PAC) Development District in the Town of Bethel, Sullivan County, New York, to be known as the Bethel Woods Center for the Performing Arts.

Few would dispute that the events, which took place on 15-17 August 1969 on this site, are of national historical significance. While some regard this site as constituting “sacred ground,” such an interpretation is highly subjective and not likely to merit protection under that status by the U.S. National Park Service’s criteria for the preservation of historic places. However, as defined within the DEIS, the Woodstock Festival site meets the criteria that render it eligible for adding to both the New York State Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places. Some of the evidence to support this determination has been compiled by the Gerry Foundation itself and may be found within its own documentation.

We recognize that the architectural firm contracted by the GF for this project, Westlake Reed Leskosky of Cleveland, is known not only for its excellence in designing performing arts centers, but also for its specialization in “adaptive reuse”- the rehabilitation of historic structures to serve contemporary purposes while maintaining their historical and aesthetic integrity. The WPA congratulates the Gerry Foundation on its selection of this firm…

In a letter addressed to the Town of Bethel Planning Board and dated 8 March 2004, Dr. Michael William Doyle, an historian with thirty years of experience in historic preservation who was hired to author part of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, concluded that “the site [is] of major significance on the local, state, national, and even international levels. With the owner’s consent, the site would certainly be eligible for listing on both the New York State and the National Register of Historic Places.”…[The site] remains in much the same state as it was found when the Festival organizers leased it from Max Yasgur in summer 1969. This is all the more remarkable given the site’s location, a mere two-hour drive from the heart of Manhattan and in a scenic area that has for generations been a destination for vacationers. Miraculously, neither residential nor commercial sprawl has adversely affected the site over the subsequent thirty-five years.”

The Woodstock Preservation Alliance is an organization which gives as its motto: “Working to save the original ’69 Woodstock Site from development.”




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