THE PURCHASE OF AN ICON
"A man is rich in proportion to the
number of things he can let alone." -Henry David Thoreau
Following months of quiet negotiations, closed-door meetings
and secret deals, it was revealed that millionaire Alan Gerry,
businessman and native of Sullivan County, had purchased the site of the
1969 Woodstock Festival, as well as 1400 acres of adjoining land in
Bethel NY. In prepared remarks issued on 24/4/97, it was announced that
Alan Gerry was now the owner of this legendary site. It further went on
to state that he had also purchased a number of parcels surrounding the
Woodstock site, with the intentions of creating a
class performing arts center. He expressed appreciation that this
property had been sold to him in trust, not only to add to the economic
fabric of a county, but to ensure that this touchstone of modern
American music and culture was protected. He made it clear that his
intent was not only to bring growth and prosperity to a much needed
area, but also to preserve, in perpetuity, this historic land - where
generations of people from around the world could walk freely on those
hills, and be inspired by Woodstock past, present and future. The Gerry
Foundation Inc., a not-for-profit organization, was created to help
develop these plans.
In the years to follow, the news fell silent, and the air in Bethel was
filled with curiosity and conjecture as to what those plans might be, as
well as doubt and skepticism that any plans would be followed through.
During that time, it also heightened trepidation regarding the fate of
the highly revered and historic Woodstock site.
2000: The much anticipated news came three years later, when in May, it
was reported that the Gerry Foundation�s focus was on the long-term
development of a performing arts complex, and in August a major press
conference was held. Standing on the Woodstock site, with many
politicians, businessmen and media in attendance, Alan Gerry,
accompanied by Governor George Pataki, announced his plans for the
development of a $40 million Performing Arts Center - plans which would
not only breathe new life into Bethel and Sullivan Co., but also respect
and protect the history and legend that is contained within that land.
Reactions were very positive, and support was pledged from the highest
levels of state to the sum of $15 million in financial aid. It was said
to be the greatest thing to happen to Bethel.
Rumors that the Woodstock site was threatened by development circulated
in September, but those reports were quelled by the Gerry Foundation's
reassurance that they acknowledge the importance of this special place.
The re-organization of those concerned with safeguarding the original
Woodstock Site came about in October,
and the Woodstock Preservation Alliance was born. An internet-based
organization in favor of the performing arts center - advocating for the
mere 37.5-acre parcel of historical land, situated amidst 1400 - to
remain free - in its untouched, unspoiled, and unaltered state, within
2001: In June, following months of planning, the Gerry Foundation
presented a major step in a dream to responsibly and successfully
capitalize on a legend, and the master plan for the Bethel Performing
Arts Center was unveiled. Pending successful outcomes of the necessary
environmental and land use reviews, their proposal revealed plans to
include a pavilion, performance center, visitors center, exhibition and
retail space and museum, with future plans to include a school for the
performing arts as well as a conference center.
Most importantly, and in standing by their pledges, the Gerry Foundation
announced that, with the exception of a festival stage to be placed
where the original stood in 1969, the Woodstock Site would remain
untouched. The concerns of those focused on the protection of the
Woodstock Site were eased, and the WPA released a statement of
congratulations and support.
This was a win-win decision for commerce, culture, and history, and it
strengthened the vision for impending growth. Widely celebrated, reports
of this news received national attention. Assuring and reiterating his
stance on developing the 37.5 acre Woodstock Site, Alan Gerry posed the
question, quoted in the NY Times: "Would you build a shopping center
where Washington crossed the Delaware?"
In retrospect, that statement was the beginning of the end - but
nevertheless, at that time, it achieved a wide-scale trust that the
socially, culturally, and historically significant global icon would
2002: In March, without the fanfare or national attention that had
surrounded the previous announcements; the Gerry Foundation quietly
changed their plans.
Despite their assurances, regardless of their expert findings and
contrary to wide-spread popular belief, the original Woodstock Site was
slated for development. Their proposal placed the "core activities
buildings" on the top third of the upper plateau, asphalt walkways would
cut across the bowl, steel security fencing would encompass the area -
attesting to the fact that there are those who would build a shopping
center where Washington crossed the Delaware.
The summer of 2002 brought about an evolution in the Woodstock
Preservation Alliance, and standing under that banner, a core group of
historical preservation activists launched a most compelling cause for
the historic preservation of the 1969 Woodstock festival site, in an
attempt to make a difference, and the extent of those efforts are
documented within this website.