Hubbard’s Roycroft Campus and the Arts & Crafts Movement
My foray into East Auroa, out of Buffalo, nearly ended with an unfortunate $70 dollar taxi ride home, or an unexpected overnight stay in the little town (or bar!) due to no returning buses! But the delights of the arts and craft movement did not dissapoint in my all to brief visit.
Robb Mair, of the Aurora Historical Society, kindly gave me a tour of the Roycroft Inn which has been lovingly restored and is now the jewel of the Roycroft Campus. Sadly (due to other annoying buses) the rest of the campus was closed on my arrival, 10 minutes after 5 o’clock. So I am very thankful to Robb for delivering an entusiastic inpromptu 1-2-1 guided tour which quickly relieved my disappointment!
On returning from England, where he had met William Morris and shared ideals of pre-industrialised society and of the beauty in the handmade, Elbert Hubbard set about creating a complex to house his vision of the arts and craft movement and his dream of being a writer. He atively sought out skilled craftsmen, many of which were originally focussed around the printing trade to enable him to produce his books. Despite his idealistic goals Hubbard was a clever businessman and he courted yearly subscriptions to his short publication to fund his other printing ventures, which were distributed across the USA. The Roycrft Campus grew from this original print works to house a growing community of craftsmen, including painters, sculptors, metal workers, potters, leather workers and writers.
Although hard to imagine today the site of the Inn is what was formerly the print house, full of print presses and workers.
In 1986 the Roycroft Campus, consisting of 14 of the original buildings, received Landmark status and with funding from the Margaret L Wendt Foundation has undergone a 9 year restoration. Thanks to the changing fashions of recent decades many of the original features of the buidling have survived. I am still astounded by the fact that the windows are original. These gorgeous stained glass windows with classic arts and crafts flower motifs are extant throughout the building:
This leaded lamp was found, undamaged! It pictures various arts and crafts and traditional trades of the time. The original light fittings provided evidence of the placement of the other lights and a local craftsman made these to replicate what the originals would have looked like.
Much of the furniture was sold to auction and has since been found and returned, as people have become more aware of its providence.
The only element of terracotta is this handsome sunburst on the gable of the chapel building. The mould still exists for the terracotta roof tiles, so the other buildings can eventually be re-roffed in the original tile.
Today the Roycroft Campus is once again establishing itself as a centre for crafts, with makers being encouraged to return to build the community. The Craftsmans Guild Exhibition which was to open on the weekend, and it takes time to establish centres liek this, but with a history like the Roycroft and with the spirit of Hubbard carved into the beams, who can resist.“The love you liberate in your work is the love you keep”