Rider-Hopkins Farm and Olmsted Camp

12820 Benton Road, Sardinia, NY

11 Buildings Within Property

Architectural Styles:
Greek Revival and Craftsman

The text below is a reprint of the Nomination for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places prepared by Olaf W. Shelgren Jr. and Dr. Francis R. Kowsky

Table of Contents:

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The Rider-Hopkins Farm and Olmsted Camp consist of a 188.40-acre farm including a nineteenth-century farm complex, agricultural land, and a five-acre early-twentieth century family summer camp.

Olmsted Camp, a private family summer residence so-called after the Buffalo family that created it beginning in 1898, occupies five acres of former pasture and orchard land in the southeast corner of the property. An historic designed landscape, the grounds of the camp are also considered a contributing structure.

The property of the
Rider-Hopkins Farm is bounded on the south by Cattaraugus Creek, which is in a ravine 70' below the farmland. There are six surviving farm-related structures on the property; the most notable is the James and Abigail Hopkins house, a brick Greek Revival farmhouse dating from the 1840s. Five other wooden out buildings range in date from the 1870s to the 1930s.


The Rider-Hopkins Farm is a rare surviving example of a Western New York settlement era farm. With modest exceptions, it has retained its original boundaries as purchased from the Holland Land Company in 1828 and is still used for agricultural purposes. The Rider-Hopkins Farm is also significant as possessing the James and Abigail Hopkins house, one of the finest examples of a Greek Revival farmhouse in Erie County. Its importance is enhanced by the fact that it is built of brick in an area where most pre-Civil War houses were made of wood.

The farm also is the site of the Olmsted Camp, an outstanding example of a turn-of-the-century family summer retreat in the tradition of the Adirondack great camps. The buildings of the camp. which are in the
Arts and Crafts (Craftsman) style. and the grounds. which are laid out in the naturalistic manner most closely identified with Frederick Law Olmsted, are both the work of Harold Olmsted(1886-1972), a distant relative of the great landscape architect and a locally significant architect, landscape architect, and artist.


The original owner of the Rider-Hopkins Farm was
Horace Rider. In 1811, Rider came to the Sardinia area from Herkimer County, New York, and purchased 140 acres of land on Middle Road, the west part of Lot 57, Township 7, Range 5. In 1815 Rider, now a veteran of battles on the Niagara Frontier during the War of 1812, married and began to become active in the town of Sardinia affairs. He served for five terms as highway commissioner and two terms as town assessor. A cabinetmaker by trade, he owned a sawmill on the Cattaraugus Creek flats near Savage Road. In 1827 and 828, Rider acquired from Wilhelm Willink (a partner of the Holland Land Company) land in Lot 25 that completed the 188.40 acreage of the present day farm.

When one of his daughters, Abigail, married
James Hopkins, the Hopkins name appears on the title to the farm. James Hopkins undoubtedly erected the brick farmhouse. Later he became vice president of the Springville-Sardinia Railroad, a narrow gauge line that operated from 1878 to 1884.

In the early 1900s
John Bartow Olmsted, a Buffalo attorney, began leasing several acres of land in the southwest corner of the Rider-Hopkins Farm for a family summer camp. By 1910, the Olmsted family members had erected here several buildings for their summertime use. This became known as the Olmsted Camp.

The granddaughter of James Hopkins, Mazie Hopkins, was the last Rider descendant to live in the farmhouse. She moved into a new home built across the street on her family's land when she
married T. Ray Benton. Although the farmhouse stood empty for many years, Mazie Hopkins continued to farm the land. In 1944, she sold the farm to Howard Roderick, whose wife Emily was the granddaughter of John Bartow Olmsted. Roderick also purchased the camp buildings. Now [1998], the five surviving children of Howard and Emily Roderick own the Rider-Hopkins Farm under the Roderick Family Trust.

In 1984, Emily Roderick Oprea (daughter of Howard and Emily Roderick, granddaughter of Harold, and great granddaughter of John Bartow Olmsted) moved into the farmhouse as a year-round estate manager. She continues to lease the fields , pastures, and barn for crop cultivation and boarding horses.

Olmsted Camp - Architectural style

Architecturally, Olmsted Camp is a representative example of the Arts and Crafts (Craftsman) idea of home building of which Gustav Stickley was a major proponent. In 1899, Stickley visited England where he met and was duly impressed by the enterprises of William Morris and his followers. He returned to the United States with the purpose of promoting here Morris's artistic principles and social ideals. In 190l, Gustav Stickley and his brothers, Leopold and J. George, established what became the Craftsman Workshops in Fayetteville, NY, where they produced furniture and metalwork. Gustav was also responsible for publishing "The Craftsman," a periodical that disseminated his ideals of simplicity, durability, and fitness in the design of furniture and buildings. He also stressed the importance of harmonizing one's home with the natural environment around it.

Stickley's ideas, as well as the parallel example of
Elbert Hubbard's Roycroft campus at East Aurora (near Buffalo), influenced the thinking of young Harold Olmsted. And the long, horizontal lines of the main cabin, as well as the porches that extend sheltered space into the landscape and the large chimney core that commands the roofline, bring to mind the Prairie style architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright's Darwin Martin house in Buffalo was new when Olmsted designed the main cabin.

As much as the buildings, the landscape gives the Olmsted camp its special character. Under the guiding hand of Harold Olmsted (who at the time was employed as a landscape architect in the Buffalo architectural firm of Townsend and Fleming), the significant features of the site were preserved and enhanced.

The results exemplify the natural or romantic school of landscape architecture most closely identified with the parks and landscapes of
Frederick Law Olmsted. The grounds of spacious lawns shaded and bordered by mature trees and shrubs represent a masterful attempt to establish a sense of intimacy between man and nature and to provide for distant views of tranquil natural scenery. Characteristic is the way Olmsted sheltered the half-circular patio on the east side of the main cabin behind a hedge of rugosa roses.

Olmsted, who was also an accomplished landscape painter (views he took of the Rider-Hopkins Farm hang in the house today) and a friend of artist Charles Burchfield, who often visited the camp, also realized that the edge of the high river bank at the southern end of the property held a picture-like vista of the Cattaraugus Creek Valley. The architect sited the living room of the main cabin at this spot in order to capitalize on this splendid prospect. Indeed, the view from the south porch or the large window in the living room is the most compelling feature of the Olmsted Camp. And like Olmsted's earlier park designs (Harold Olmsted grew up in Buffalo where he would have known first hand F. L. Olmsted's famous
Buffalo Park and Parkway System, National Register listed 3/30/82) , the Olmsted Camp incorporates restful views of pastoral scenery (the Rider-Hopkins Farm) and a sheltering border of trees that screens the outside world from view.

Indeed, the buildings and grounds of the Olmsted Camp represent a minor masterpiece of that American environmental tradition that identifies nature with the elevation of the spirit. Its antecedents stretch back through Frederick Law Olmsted and his brilliant partner
Calvert Vaux to Andrew Jackson Downing and the Hudson River School landscape painters.

In 1969, the
Burchfield-Penny Art Center in Buffalo honored Harold Olmsted with a retrospective exhibition of his art and architecture.

Sixty years earlier, in 1909-1910, he had begun to create the work that most completely embodies his esthetic ideals, the Olmsted Camp. Here he had the opportunity to site and to build four structures in accordance with the teachings of Stickley and Hubbard and the example of Wright and to
develop the grounds in a manner reflecting his admiration for the romantic landscape tradition. Today, his buildings (plus an earlier cottage of 1902) stand virtually unchanged amid grounds that have matured as he envisioned them. And each summer, the widely dispersed descendants of John Bartow Olmsted come to use the camp as a place of recreation and reunion. In 1998, the family celebrated the one-hundredth anniversary of this admirable custom.

The Rider-Hopkins Farm and Olmsted Camp together mirror a change in land use from agricultural to recreational that reflects the urbanization of American society at the end of the nineteenth century. At that time, middle class urban dwellers sought escape from city life, in pastoral retreats. This national phenomenon is nowhere better represented in Western New York than at the Hopkins-Rider Farm and Olmsted Camp. The two entities relate to each other in such a way as to make readily evident the camp's consanguinity with the older farm. There is no tangible separation between the grounds of the camp and the adjacent farmland, Looking north from the camp (which is reached by a curving extension of the dirt road passing in front of the Hopkins house) one has an uninterrupted view of the farmstead. On the west the prospect lies open to pasture and fields. Thus, the sense well being that Harold Olmsted and others of his age found so compelling in rural scenery and country life is eloquently expressed in the symbiotic relationship that exists here between camp and farm

Special thanks to Emily R. Oprea for her cooperation and hospitality.

Related Sites:

Photos Lia Oprea
Paget by
Chuck LaChiusa in 2001
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