Roycroft Campus - Table of Contents.............. Arts & Crafts - Table of Contents

Roycroft Inn
40 South Grove St. , East Aurora, NY
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Placard

   

Roycroft Inn
Furnishings

 

Elbert Hubbard in front of his home and the site of the future Roycroft Inn.
Circa 1896.

 

C. 1930 postcard

 


First Roycroft Shop 1897-1900

Elbert Hubbard (1857-1915), the individual responsible for the development of the grounds and buildings known as the "Roycroft Campus," started working for the Larkin Soap Company in 1875 as the junior partner in charge of sales and advertising. In 1893, he left the Larkin Company's employ and, sustained by a sizable monetary settlement from the company, pursued his goal to become a writer. He first earned literary notoriety from his stories entitled "Little Journeys," based on visits to the homes of famous people.

In 1899, less than two years after Hubbard began creating the Roycroft Campus, he was propelled to worldwide fame and renewed financial wealth with the publication of his essay entitled, "A Message to Garcia." The "Message," which stressed loyalty to one's benefactor, was so popular and so frequently reprinted by businesses and institutions, that it became one of the world's most widely published literary works alongside the Bible and the dictionary. As a direct result of this success, he was able to further augment his development of the Roycroft Campus.

Hubbard's first wife, Bertha Crawford Hubbard (1861-1935), aided in the development of her husband's literary style, as well as in the creation of the initial Roycroft Campus and the ensuing arts and crafts produced here.

Hubbard's second wife, Alice Moore Hubbard (1861-1915), managed the Roycroft Shops in later years and was renowned as an accomplished author and passionate proponent of women's rights.

Both Elbert and Alice perished on the S.S. Lusitania when it sank off the coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915 after being torpedoed by a German U-boat.

Hubbard's first printing experience was with The Philistine magazine, a publication initially produced in cooperation with Henry P. Taber and William McIntosh in early 1895 at the Pendennis Press, White & Wagoner Company, located in the Regulator Building on East Main Street in East Aurora. Hubbard acquired ownership of The Philistine magazine and the Roycroft Press from Taber on November 19, 1895.

Although this periodical was controversial, it became immensely popular as evidenced by its eventual subscription base of over one hundred thousand readers. In 1896, Hubbard continued the Roycroft printing operations at the Regulator Building with the publication of the first Roycroft book, "The Song of Songs."

By 1898, all printing operations moved to this South Grove Street location -- today the Roycroft Inn --where the production of limited edition, signed and numbered, master-crafted books continued. Hubbard's publishing business flourished, in part, due to his claims that the exclusivity of Roycroft books would increase their value over time. During the forty-three year existence of the Roycroft under Hubbard family leadership, an array of handcrafted objects, ranging from simplistically refined to artistically complex, were fabricated with European undertones in product lines of furniture, copper and iron wares, leather items, textiles, basketry, pottery and fine arts. Additionally, the Roycroft printing and bookbinding operation grew to be one of the most recognized private printing institutions in America.


1897/98 (First Campus Print Shop - Later the Roycroft Inn Reception Room)

The portion of the Roycroft Inn located directly to the left where guests enter through the heavy, motto-carved, oak door leading from the peristyle, or porch, into the Inn was initially the only structure at this location and the first to be constructed on the Campus. Hubbard's original intent with this building was to create a medieval guild-like, arts and crafts and printing institution, in similarity to revival establishments prevalent in England during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

From 1897 to 1900, this original portion of the Roycroft Inn was simply known as the Roycroft Shop, or Chapel, in accordance with the historical definition of the word "chapel" as a place of printing.

Groundbreaking commenced October 12, 1897 and construction costs of just over three thousand dollars provided for the original structure to be styled in the fashion of St. Oswald's Church in Grasmere, England. This country Gothic style was reminiscent of the architecture Hubbard encountered during a series of trips he took to Europe in the 1890's.

The most notable of these journeys, where he obtained many of his ideas, was his tour of the famed Kelmscott Press in England, where he claimed to have met its renowned founder, William Morris.

The first shop's exterior appearance was characterized in the local newspaper as, "shingled and stained the color of slate with a moss green roof surmounted by a small cupola." It was completed and ready for use as a print shop during the week of January 15, 1898.

Two years later, it was converted into the Phalanstery dining room. In 1905, it housed the Roycroft Bank and may also have served, in part, as a cabinet shop between the printing operation's relocation to the new Roycroft Print Shop across the street in 1900-1901 and the construction of the Furniture Shop in 1904. The structure became the Roycroft Inn Reception Room about the time the Inn opened in 1905.

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1898/99 (Oak Room and Artist's Work-quarters - Later the Roycroft Inn Library, Morris Room and Ruskin Room)

One of the most dramatic configurations added to this structure was the three-story, tower attachment located at the rear of the first building. This addition contained a roof top cupola that architecturally complimented the arched Gothic windows in the original structure's design.

The interior decor of the entire complex boasted wainscoting accented with medieval-inspired, gas light fixtures and fireplaces of stone and brick crafted by Roycroft artisans. The hearths were equipped with andirons wrought by Roycroft blacksmiths in the fashion of artist W. W. Denslow's seahorse emblem, a symbol with which the Roycroft name eventually became synonymous.

The large basement of the structure originally housed the printing presses, while the three rooms in the tower served as work-quarters for book illuminators, illustrators and artists before their eventual move to the new Chapel that was to be built across the street.

The first Roycroft art director, Samuel Warner, designed most of the early title pages of Roycroft books and also aided in the development of the graphic arts department. Renowned Roycroft book illuminators and illustrators included: Alta Fattey, Minnie Gardner, Beulah Hood, Bertha Hubbard, Lawrence Mazzanovich, Harriet Robarge, Clare Schlegel and famed "Wizard of Oz" artist W.W. Denslow, when in residence. The first floor of the tower room was originally called the Oak Room and was used for china painting, a craft excelled in by Hubbard's first wife Bertha, and fellow artists, Clara Schlegel and Alta Fattey.

With the 1903-05 reconfiguration period of the Inn, the first floor became the Library, the second floor became special guests quarters known as the Morris Room, the third floor became the Ruskin Room, another special guest room and the basement became the kitchen.


1898-99 (First Book Bindery - Later the Roycroft Inn Dining Room)

The portion of the Inn adjacent to the right side of the tower, directly in front of the placard and behind the Peristyle and glass enclosed portion of the building, originally served as the area for book assembly, collation and binding. This space became the Roycroft Dining Room when the Inn opened in 1905.

1899/00

Off the rear of what eventually became the Dining Room was another addition that initially served as workspace for the rapidly expanding printing and binding operations. The area became part of the Roycroft Inn dining facility in later years.


Phalanstery - 1900
Roycroft Inn - 1905

In 1900, with the construction of both the Roycroft Chapel and the Print Shop across the street, Elbert Hubbard implemented his visionary dream of converting the original Roycroft Shop into the "Phalanstery," meaning "The Home of Friends," where both workers and Campus guests could socialize and be housed.

By March 1903, Hubbard began referring to the property as an "Inn," based, in part, on the facility's interior configuration of thirty-eight sleeping rooms and one hundred-seat dining room.

In May of 1905, the building was officially bestowed with the full fledged title of "The Roycroft Inn," a vanguard to the thousands of Campus visitors which the Inn would subsequently house and entertain each year.

The menus offered to the Inn guests were created under the direction of Roycroft staff members "Mother" (Ellen) Grant and at a later time, Bob Lea. Meals were prepared using fruits, vegetables, milk, butter, cream, eggs and grains grown and cultivated at the Roycroft Farm.

For many years Martha Young held the position of supervising the Inn and its many functions.


1903-05 (Roycroft Inn Sleeping Rooms, Peristyle & Salon)

When Hubbard and his first wife, Bertha, moved to East Aurora in 1894 they purchased "The Alberta" house, originally located to the right of the placard and seventy feet to the right of what was the first Roycroft Shop. Here the Hubbards lived with their four children, Elbert Jr., Ralph, Sanford and Katherine, until the house was partially razed and incorporated into a three-story sleeping room addition to the already existing complex. It was a renovation that ultimately provided the Inn with an increased number of guest rooms, many of which offered outdoor sleeping apartments and private baths.

Roycroft Architect James Cadzow, who supervised the Inn's construction, designed the large ground level room in the front section of the building as a grand Salon, or Music Room. This open area served as a lecture hall for Hubbard and special guest speakers, as well as a performance venue for regularly scheduled music concerts that were conducted for many years by Rudolph Van Liebich.

The Salon was noteworthy for its technologically advanced use of indirect lighting and also for its aesthetic beauty highlighted by a series of frieze murals encompassing the room, created by renowned artist Alex Fournier. It took Fournier two years to complete the artwork, which depicted the eight man-made wonders of the world. The Roycroft Campus, of course, being the eighth.

The guest rooms in the Inn were not identified by number, but rather were distinguished by wooden placards carved with the names of famous people. The Peristyle, or porch, along the front of this building was constructed in similarity to Frank Lloyd Wright structures dating from this period. The significance of the design being the more contemporary Prairie Style of architecture offered in contrast to the initial Gothic, medieval, influence of earlier Roycroft structures. Eventually, many of the Gothic architectural elements of this building were eliminated including removal of the tower cupola after the Roycroft Inn opened in 1905.

In 1904, the talented young artisan, Dard Hunter arrived on the Campus and within the span of one year began creating book title pages. Additionally, Hunter took charge of designing electric light chandeliers made of copper, with cutout heart motifs for the new Roycroft Inn, replacing the iron, medieval looking gas fixtures. Further remodeling included the installation of wall coverings fashioned of green burlap and seamed together with leather strips and large brass tacks, which hid the original Victorian wainscoting Hubbard outfitted the Inn with Roycroft furniture and accessories, which he accented with cut glass, Grueby, Teco and other art potteries, as well as Navajo rugs. After the Inn opened, Hubbard claimed to have invested over one hundred thousand dollars in the makeover.


1907 (Additional Roycroft Inn Sleeping rooms, additional Peristyle)

At the back section of the Inn, Roycroft carpenter William Roth added five additional sleeping rooms. In the front of the building the Peristyle was extended to include the entire street side of the Guest House that is located to the left of the Inn. A separate portion of Peristyle was also built to accommodate guests as they walked from the Reception Room to the Salon, an area that now appears as a glass enclosed Peristyle portion of the Inn, directly behind the placard, beyond both the foreground Peristyle and the courtyard.

Intermittently during the years from 1905 to 19007, Hunter redesigned the Inn's Gothic windows by replacing the glass with Glasgow School and Viennese Secessionist-inspired leaded glass designs. Upon his return from Vienna, Austria, in 1908, Hunter began replacing all the light fixtures in the public rooms of the Inn as well, updating them with stylized leaded glass designs of Viennese Secessionist art forms.


1909 (Alice's Office and Screened Dining Porch)

The Inn's Reception Room, located to the left, was remodeled and enlarged further to the left to accommodate an office for Alice Hubbard. It was here that master artisan Frederick Kranz created a wide frieze of Art Nouveau modeled leather, depicting elaborately detailed roses. During this same period, the section of Peristyle in front of the dining room (facing the placard) that connected the Reception Room to the Salon was screened in for outdoor dining use.


1913 (Enclosed Dining Porch)

The screens were removed and the Dining Porch was glass enclosed.

1920 (Enclosed Sun Porch)

The final Roycroft Inn addition involved the glass enclosure of the far right side of the Peristyle for use as a wicker furnished sun parlor.


The Inn is now owned by a nonprofit organization and reopened in 1995 with an excellent collection of original and reproduction pieces that compliment the meticulously restored building. The inn is now a fully functioning hotel, boasting 22 suites that offer a perfect blend of historical authenticity and modern luxury, as well as fine dining for lunch, dinner and banquets.

The entire Roycroft campus has the highest possible historic designation: National Historic Landmark.

The nomination for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, containing text and illustrations, is online. Go to Document Imaging for National Register. Click on "Basic Criteria" and scroll down to "County - Erie." Then, click on "Results."


Special thanks to Christine Peters of the Roycroft Restoration Corp. and Susan Scholterer of the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau for making research material available

Photos and their arrangement 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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