John Drury; Photos: Birdman of Exit 39; 2/2005

Robert D. Smith (born 1923)
The Birdman of Exit 39 and the Land of Broken Dreams

Outside of Syracuse, New York and visible from the highway just past exit 38 leaving town, a retired septic tank cleaner has built a wonderful environment of habitats for his birds and sculptures on three acres of wetlands. On property that he purchased with a $250 military bonus (and $50 of his own cash) Mr. Smith built his own house, where he and his wife raised three sons. Mr. Smith was born on a farm in nearby Liverpool, NY. Robert began work on his outdoor environment in 1948. Chickens, pheasants, ducks, rabbits and peacocks have all inhabited the constructed houses, at one time or another. At one point, he housed 200 birds (mostly pigeons) on the property. Mr. Smith does not refer to himself as an artist, but instead a
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