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Roycroft Chapel
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Beneath Illustrations

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Chapel: printing office.
In 2006, the East Aurora Town a
nd Town Museum

Main entrance. Skylight not original.

Gothic arch.
crenelation atop field stone porch.

Elbert Hubbard advertised in the village newspaper
for unwanted boulders from local farmers' fields

Red terra cotta roof tiles

Red terra cotta roof tiles, including trefoiled ridge crest

Main and South Grove Sts.

Main Street façade

Note crenelation atop field stone tower.

Sculptured terra cotta face
in the peak of the Main Street side of the structure,
workmanship attributed to craftsman
Jerome Connor




Lynn Hubbard Trefts on "Queen"
behind the Roycroft Chapel. Circa 1920




Chapel: Definition #7
Webster's New International Unabridged Dictionary, 1957

Print: a. Formerly, a printing office; -- said to have been so called because printing was first carried on in England in a chapel near Westminster Abbey. b. An association or meeting of the workmen in a printing office, for dealing with matters or questions, affecting their interests.

Construction of the medieval inspired Roycroft Chapel commenced on March 27, 1899 under the direction of builder William Kelly.

Since its completion, it has often been described as one of the most beautiful, asymmetrical structures in America.


In order to obtain the quantity of rusticated building materials required to fabricate the Chapel, Elbert Hubbard advertised in the village newspaper for unwanted boulders from local farmers' fields. As word of Hubbard's offer spread, rock-laden wagons began arriving from every direction. As a result Hubbard instructed his Roycroft handyman, Ali Baba, to sit at the corner of South Grove and Main Streets and pay one silver dollar for each approved load. Over time, Ali Baba paid out over fifteen hundred of the silver coins in exchange for boulders that eventually built not only the Chapel, but the Print Shop and the Blacksmith Shop as well.

The Gothic architecture of the Chapel was accented with a sculptured terra cotta face in the peak of the Main Street side of the structure, workmanship attributed to craftsman Jerome Connor,

Other notable building features included a crenelated round turret or tower, tiled flooring and the interior woodwork crafted in Flemish Oak by James Cadzow.


The main room on the left side of the Chapel was first used as a center for book illuminating, home theatricals, lectures and stereopticon slide shows.

In 1905, a roof skylight was added, which aided in the transition of the room into an art gallery. Throughout the years, major art works by J. Otis Adams, Carl Ahems, A. E. Albright, Eleanor Douglas, Alex Fournier, Sandor Landeau and Joseph Sharp were exhibited in this and a variety of other on-campus locales.

During the time period of 1909 to 1910, Dard Hunter revamped the gas-fueled lights of the gallery by designing and executing electric leaded glass lanterns in the Viennese Secessionist style as replacements for the original Roycroft hand wrought iron fixtures.

Interior changes

In response to the growing demand for Roycroft handicrafts, the art gallery eventually was taken over and converted into a display and sales room. By the 1920's, the sales department was shifted to both floors of the opposite end of the building into the areas that originally housed the first floor reception room and library, and the second floor studio quarters. Subsequently, the left side of the Chapel became the accounting and secretarial offices that were formerly situated in the Print Shop.

Sales representatives for the Roycroft line were Minnie Armstrong and Ernest Simmons. Secretarial and accounting staff included Lyman Chandler, Cecil Jackson, Cecilia Quirk and Ernest Simmons.

The Roycroft's first art director was Samuel Warner, who in the early twentieth century maintained his studio on the second floor of the Chapel turret.

Additional Roycroft artists and illuminators who worked in studios in the Chapel or various other Roycroft Campus buildings included Carl Ahrens, Burt Bames, Lillian Bonham, John Comstock, Jerome Connor, Eleanor Douglas, Jules Maurice Gaspard, Merle D. James, Richard Kruger, Albert Miller, Theo Newhays, Raymond Nott, Axel Sahlin, Otto Schneider and Jack Sears.

Other Roycroft artists included photographers Paul Fournier, Ernest J. Rawleigh and photography critic and writer, Sadakichi Hartman.

At the turn of the century, Ahrens and Douglas both undertook short-lived pottery ventures, while Connor produced a more extensive line of terra cotta sculptures. In 1906, Hunter also experimented with ceramics.

A memorial boulder (1915) commemorating Elbert and Alice Hubbard is located directly in front of the building.

In 2006 the Chapel, in addition to serving as the Aurora Town Museum, also houses the Town Hall.

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 in 2006
Photos and their arrangement © 2006Chuck LaChiusa
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