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Roycroft Campus


Roycroft Campus was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. It was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1985. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original NHL (1985) nomination document. [] Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.

Description

The Roycroft campus is situated on South Grove Street at the intersection of Main Street.

West Side of Grove Street

The Chapel — The "Chapel" was intended as a meeting hall for the Roycroft craftsmen. It also served as a gallery which created a setting for the display of materials that were for sale. Built in 1899, this pseudo-medieval structure is made of rusticated fieldstone. There are two stories with a one-story section on the south side. The tower has three stories. There are a number of Gothic windows and a Gothic door, a gabled roof covered with tile, and the inside ceiling is trussed with rough hand-hewn beams. Today this building is the East Aurora Town Hall and the Aurora Historical Society maintains a museum on the upper floor.

The Print Shop — Built in 1900 as the enlarged shop, this structure housed typographers, illuminators and bookbinders. It also housed the shipping offices and general administrative offices. This structure is an L-shaped plan and resembles the "Chapel" in elevation with similar use of material — rough-cut stone with a gabled roof. On the second story exterior there is half-timbering with stucco in-fill. The tower contains the stair and the interior also has hand-hewn beams and large stone fireplaces. The walls carry mottoes that Elbert Hubbard thought appropriate. Today the offices of the Erie County Farm and Home Center occupy the structure.

Copper Shop — It was built as a one room blacksmith shop ca.1900. One-and-one-half stories originally, there have been additions over the ears. The roof is a gable with red tile. The interior has a vaulted ceiling with exposed beams. It is currently a gift shop. Originally it was intended to serve also as the Roycrofters Bank.

Foundry — Free-standing 2-1/2 story rusticated cement block structure. Built before 1915.

Furniture Shop and Bindery — Built about 1905. The Mission style furniture made by Roycrofters to furnish the Inn was also for sale. It enjoyed great popularity and is being avidly collected again today. The Bindery boasted the finest leather-craft for the printed books produced at Roycroft. The building itself is frame, large in scale with a gambrel roof opened up by four large dormers. It is two-and-a-half stories with some half-timbering in the north gambrel. Today it houses a gift shop and an art gallery.

Stock Building — One-and-one-half story wood frame structure with a gambrel roof.

Power House — Built in 1910. One-and-one-half stories, it is a small echo of the Print Shop, complete with gambrel roof covered in red tiles. This small structure at one time supplied steam heat to the whole Roycroft Campus. In the 1940's it became an Assembly of God chapel and in 1971 it was restored as a professional office.

Small outbuilding — Originally Roycroft fire house.

"Bungle" House — "Bungle" House was originally a large chicken coop later converted into an artist's studio for Alex Fournier.

Alex Fournier's House — Originally a barn, this building was converted in 1905 into a home and studio for Fournier and contains some of his murals, as does Roycroft Inn.

East Side of Grove Street

Laundry — A one-and-one-half story laundry is the east of the guesthouse and is similar to the Power House. Built in 1909, it was an artist's studio at one time.

The Special Guest House — Built in the 1890's when the Roycroft Inn was expanding. Originally connected to the Inn by a "peristyle" or covered walkway, now reduced to a porch. The house once provided housing for the most distinguished guests. It is a knitting and weaving shop today.

Roycroft Inn — The Roycroft Inn is actually a series of buildings that evolved into a full scale hotel. In 1895, when Elbert Hubbard began the Roycroft Printing Shop, he built a small one-room structure next to his home, based on Wordsworth's church in Grasmere, England. After several additions the building became the Roycroft Inn in 1903. This rambling structure is connected by a "peristyle" running along the Grove Street facades with angular posts reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright. Some interior details are notable: the leaded glass windows and lantern in the entrance are by Dard Hunter, a Roycroft craftsman. The south wing reception room is decorated with murals by Alex Fournier. Several second floor rooms have been restored with original furniture.

The Elbert Hubbard House — The Elbert Hubbard House is incorporated in this part of the Inn (on the south side). The frame house is two-and-one-half stories, and has a gable roof. The house currently contains apartments.

Originally there were spacious lawns giving Roycroft a sylvan quality. Some of these have given way to parking lots but the buildings still give the impression of a closely-knit community of craftsmen.

Significance

At the end of the 19th century, there was an artistic revolt against the mass production of applied arts. Quality of design and craftsmanship had deteriorated and the use of cheap inappropriate materials was wide-spread until a reform movement, the Art and Crafts Movement, started in England and America. The most famous of the American "guilds" was Elbert Hubbard's Roycroft community, founded in East Aurora, New York in 1895. Here, in a Medieval Guild setting, craftsmen could live and work, making beautiful objects by hand. They produced fine hand-printed and bound books, paintings, carvings, metalwork, and ceramics. There were also some vague political overtones to these "art communes" both here and abroad. The English dictum that men have no business with art at all unless all share it, drew William Morris and his circle toward the socialist movement in England. One of the most successful American reformers was Gustav Stickley, a furniture maker who published the monthly magazine, The Craftsman, from 1905 to 1916. This publication was extremely influential in publicizing architecture and the decorative arts. Even more famous than Stickley, Elbert Hubbard's career is described as follows:

"Born in Bloomington, Illinois, Hubbard visited William Morris' Kelmscott Press in 1894, four years after it was founded. He was greatly influenced by Morris' book designs and ideas and on returning to America, started a press. Before long his Roycrofters were also binding the books in leather, doing other handcrafted leatherwork, and making furniture. Roycroft was an artistic community, modeled somewhat after Morris' firm's workshop at Merton Abbey, Surrey. Like its British counterpart, it attempted to gather people from all ranks of society who were dedicated to craft techniques as well as to democratic ideals. Among the talented people who worked at East Aurora was Dard Hunter, whose designs were among Roycroft's best. Hunter was aware of current movements in Europe not only through international art periodicals such as The Studio, founded in England in 1893, but also through his visits to Vienna and other European capitals."[1]

After a second visit to Europe in 1911, Hubbard returned to East Aurora and did his finest work.

"Between the Pan-American Exposition of 1901 and the outbreak of World War I American decorative arts design was characterized by a more severe, geometric style, perhaps appropriately referred to as the Craftsman style, after Stickley's trade name. It is not surprising that the conventionalized patterns of American Indian art should have appealed to the designers of this period."[2]

There was also a direct influence on the Prairie School architects, particularly Frank Lloyd Wright, both ideologically and stylistically with their respect for natural materials, their desire for simplicity, an interest in Japanese art, and a geometric, rectilinear style.

Hubbard was a poet and author as well as the "Sage of East Aurora." His early days as a junior partner at the Larkin Soap Company in Buffalo gave him the promotional experience to start his successful press which was responsible for the magazine Little Journeys, (1894), the Philstine magazine (1895), Roycroft Quarterly and FRA magazine and the enormously successful essay, "A Message to Garcia." Hubbard became an extremely popular lecturer on the Orpheum Circuit with his flowing tie and broad-brimmed hat. At Roycroft Inn he entertained people like Henry Ford, Booker T. Washington, Carrie Jacobs Bond, Clarence Darrow, and Clara Barton, as well as the writers Stephen Crane and Carl Sandburg. This paternalistic campus where artists lived and worked together suffered a major shock when Hubbard and his wife, Alice, died in the sinking of the SS Lusitania by a German U-boat in May 1915. His son carried on, but the stock market crash of 1929 was an almost mortal blow and in 1938 creditors claimed what was left of Roycroft.

The Roycroft Campus today preserves some of the "craftsman" atmosphere and the products of the shops and press are much prized by collectors. The Craftsman Movement, which swept this country between 1900 and 1915 and whose principles were based on the theories of William Morris, was first promoted in America by Elbert Hubbard.

Endnotes

  1. Hanks, David A. "Arts and Crafts Movement in America, 1876-1916." Antiques, Vol. CIV, No. 2, August, 1973, p.223.
  2. Ibid.

References

Bannon, Anthony, The Photo Pictorialists of Buffalo, Media Study/Buffalo 1981.

Bohdan, Carol. "The Roycrofters of East Aurora," Connoisseur Magazine, (March 1980), 209-215.

Brady, Nancy Hubbard. The Book of the Roycrofters, A Facsimile of Two Catalogs, 1919-1926. East Aurora, New York: House of Hubbard, 1977.

Cathers, David. "Furniture of the American Arts and Crafts Movement," Stickley and Roycroft Mission Oak. New York: New American Library, 1981.

Champney, Freeman. Art and Glory, the Story of Elbert Hubbard. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1968.

Clark, Robert Judson, ed. The Arts and Crafts Movement in America, 1879-1916. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972.

Craftsman Catalog. Boston: Craftsman Gallery, 1983.

East Aurora Middle School Students. East Aurora, My Home Town. East Aurora, New York: Quaker Park Press, 1983.

Edwards, Robert, "The Roycrofters: Their Furniture and Crafts," Arts and Antiques, (November-December 1981), 80-87.

Hamilton, Charles F. As Bees in Honey Drown. New York: A.S. Barnes and Company, 1973.

Hanks, David A. "The Arts and Crafts Movement in America, 1896-1916." Antiques (August 1973), Vol. CIV, No.2.

Little Journeys to the Homes of Roycrofters. East Aurora, New York: S.G. Press, 1963.

Roycroft Collectibles. New York: A.S. Barnes and Company, 1980.

Hunter, Dard, II. The Life and Work of Dard Hunter, Vol. 1. Mountain House Press. 1981.

Koch, Robert. "Elbert Hubbard Roycrofters as Artist-Craftsmen," Winterthur Portfolio, III (1966), 67-82.

Lane Albert. Elbert Hubbard and His Work. Boston: The Blanchard Press, 1901.

Ludwig, Coy L. Arts and Crafts Movement in New York State, 1890s to 1920s. Hamilton, New York: Gallery Association of New York State, 1983.

McKenna, Paul. Pricing Guide for Materials Produced in the Roycroft Print Shop, 2nd ed. New York: Tona Graphics, 1982.

Roycroft Handmade Furniture. East Aurora, New York: House of Hubbard, 1973.

The Roycroft Movement: A Spirit for Today? Buffalo: State University of New York College at buffalo, 1977.

Rust, Robert Charles with Eve Warner. "A Not So Little Journey to the Roycroft Press," The New York-Pennsylvania Collector, (September 1982), 8C-12.

Carolyn Pitts, History Division, National Park Service, Roycroft Campus, nomination document, 1985, National Historic Landmark Register, Washington, D.C.

See Map

Street Names: Grove Street South, Main Street

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