Oak Hill Tour

 

SELF-GUIDED TOUR OF OAK HILL AND RICHARDS' MARSH

 

The history surrounding Oak Hill is of significant importance. The area was designated as the Lower Landing Archaeological National Historic Landmark in 1998. There is historical evidence that proves several early tribes of Native Americans lived nearby. Located at the foot of the hill is an ancient Native American burial mound dating back to 140 AD. Oak Hill's spring attracted early trappers and settlers because of its potable water and path to the Niagara River. Today the many cherry and apple trees in the woods are the result of more than 13 million passengers of the 1895 Great Gorge Train who picnicked in the woods leaving their discarded fruit seeds.

  

The National Audobon Society has declared the Niagara River Corridor to be one of the world's most valuable birding areas. Generally birds in migration seek to avoid flying over large bodies of water as the effort, without resting points, is too strenuous. Untold thousands of birds die crossing the Great Lakes each year. The narrow Niagara Corridor provides an easier flyway for migrating birds to reach their destinations. Consequently this funnel-like area and especially its immediate banks, has become a pivotal point for environmentalists wishing to preserve a contiguous migratory path for hundreds of bird species. Oak Hill provides the ideal place for a safe and protected resting point with an easily accessible and natural food source for exhausted migrating birds.

 

Begin your self-guided tour by walking to Richards' Pond which is located at the edge of the woods, across the roadway from Parking Lot C on the east side of the theater.

 

Richards' Pond & Marsh is an environmental artwork created by Peter Richards during the years 1988 to 1989, when he was an artist in residence. This artistic preservation of a cold water spring provides a wildlife sanctuary and a place for inspirational thought. Richards used Grimsby and Whirlpool Sandstones, Irondequoit Limestone, glacial rocks, native shrubs and trees, and 1851 hand-hewn Red and White Oak barn beams.

 

The restoration of the pond and marsh in 1998 with the support of the Niagara County Environmental Fund resulted in the site being certified as a National Wildlife Federation Backyard Wildlife Habitat.

 

Left of the Marsh is a path leading into the woods. Walk onto the path to the Lewiston Mound - a sacred burial mound.

 

The Lewiston Mound

 

The most sacred area of Artpark, this mound was dated A.D. 140 by radiocarbon process dating.

 

Over 1800 years ago, unknown Native Americans were buried here in this Hopewellian-style mound. Many Hopewell mounds were constructed in the shape of animals, but others were oval or conical. The original form of this Middle Woodland, Hopewellian-style mound remains a mystery. As you view the remains of this disturbed mound, respect it as a sacred monument to all the Native Americans of this Niagara site.

 

Continue down the accessible walkway noting sculptures along the path to a sign on your left directing you to the upper pathway. The right path leads to the picnic area and an exit from the woods. More artwork can be discovered along this path.

 

The Upper Pathway

 

Sculptures are located along this easy to moderate walk. White markings on trees designate the pathway.

 

Of historical interest, Oak Hill was the name of the stately two-story stone mansion built by Seymour Scovell that stood on top of the knoll from the 1830s until the 1960s. Some of the garden walls and the foundation can still be seen.

 

About the Artist

 

George Peterson is a self-taught wood turner and sculptor with a studio in Lake Toxaway, North Carolina. Mr. Peterson spent two weeks in residence during the spring of 2001 creating his works from trees which were designated for removal by a New York State Forester.

 

Artist Statement

 

The group of work I produced for Oak Hill is titled "Return To Innocence." These words, my initials and the date are carved into the bench that overlooks the group of three sculptures on top of the hill. This title reflects my first woodworking experience, which was carving my name in a wooded bench in a public park.

 

"Spire Aspire" illustrates the central theme in all of these works and parallels my own spiritual experience. The spire most often points upward (to heaven?) but here it points down toward the earth. The raw logs have been transformed into idealized pure forms, and eventually, all of these pieces will decay and dissolve back into the earth. It is a return to innocence in its most basic sense. For me personally, the creative process itself is a constant return to the playful, expansive state of innocence. I am very grateful to have had the chance to create these works and hope they bring inspiration to others.

 

George Peterson, September 2001


Oak Hill Trail System

 

Organizations with historical or environmental programs and /or youth activities, environmentalists, teachers and visitors are encouraged to use Oak Hill as an educational venue.

 

A small meeting place (60-75 people) and a lecture space (150-200 people) within the woods are available for use year round. Reservations are necessary; please call 716-754-9000 ext. 241.