The Roycroft Campus is the best preserved and most complete complex of buildings remaining of the "guilds" that evolved in the United States at the turn of the 19th to 20th century. Author, lecturer, and entrepreneur Elbert Hubbard began to develop the Roycroft Campus in 1897. Inspired by leaders of the Arts and Crafts movement in England, William Morris and John Ruskin, Hubbard started the Roycroft Press as a way to produce monthly publications and illuminated books. In March 1899, one of his essays "A Message to Garcia" became an overnight sensation and propelled him to worldwide fame. The success enabled him to rapidly grow his Roycroft community, adding thirteen additional buildings on the campus over the next ten years. It would become the vanguard of the uniquely American "Arts and Crafts" style, a decorative arts that emphasizes clean lines and simplicity of design. The artisans would branch out working in a variety of medium including wood, stained glass, and copper to name a few. By 1914, the new Print Shop on the campus would boast an equipment inventory of 23 presses and more imported handmade paper than all American printing institutions combined. In its prime the Campus employed over 500 people including women and minorities, and became a Mecca for master craftsmen and a gathering place for notable artists, authors, philosophers, and power brokers.
The Campus, designated a National Historic Landmark (NHL) in 1986, contains 14 structures including the Inn, the Chapel, the Print Shop, the Furniture Shop, and the Copper Shop. The Campus began to fall into disrepair over time, and by 1989 was placed on the 11 Most Endangered Places list of historic properties. The threat to the historic integrity of the campus was real and imminent.
The Roycroft Campus Corporation (RCC) (formerly known as the Roycroft Revitalization Corporation), was established to preserve and restore the Campus. It helped lead the successful restoration and reopening of The Roycroft Inn in 1995. It continues to work towards acquiring and restoring the other structures on the Campus. Its ultimate goal is to preserve the unique architectural setting of the Campus, but moreover, to bring back to life the Roycroft community and ideals by re-introducing working artisans on the campus; developing comprehensive, compelling, and multi-faceted interpretative and educational programming; and encouraging the development of a center for creativity and innovation in the decorative arts, fine arts and literature.
The Roycroft Inn (1897)
Built in 1897, this structure was the first Print Shop. Between 1898 and 1900, it was expanded to accommodate Hubbard’s growing business, including the Reception Room (formerly the Print Shop), Library, Morris & Ruskin Rooms (originally artist work quarters, then special guest quarters), and the first Book Bindery (later the Dining Room).
In 1900 the original Roycroft Print Shop was converted into the “Phalanstery,” or “The Home of Friends,” where both workers and Campus guests could socialize and be housed. The word “phalanstery” comes from Charles Fourier, a French social theorist who believed that society should be reorganized into close-knit groups of people who worked together to become self-sufficient.
Elbert Hubbard began referring to the property as the “Inn” in 1903 and offered thirty-eight sleeping rooms. Two years later, the Inn was updated, offering outdoor sleeping apartments and private baths. The peristyle was added to give the lengthy façade a feeling of unity and symmetry. Between 1903-1905, Roycroft architect James Cadzow designed the large ground level room as a grand salon or music room. This room often served as a lecture hall for Hubbard and special guest speakers, as well as music concerts.
The Inn, along with thirteen other structures, received National Historic Landmark status in 1986, and underwent a complete restoration in 1995, thanks to the generosity of The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation. Strict attention was paid to the restoration methods, and many of the original furniture and fixtures remain. Today the Inn’s twenty-nine suites and rooms offer all the amenities of the present, with a healthy tribute to the glorious Roycroft past. For more information about the Inn please visit the Roycroft Inn website.
The Chapel (1899)
Built in 1899, the Chapel served as a meeting hall for the Roycrofters. The edifice was constructed of local glacial fieldstone and was the second structure built on the Campus. It has often been described as one of the most beautiful, asymmetrical structures in America. Some of the noted building features include a crenellated tower and a sculptured terra cotta face in the peak facing Main Street.
The main meeting hall was known as the Art Gallery, featuring fine oil paintings by many well-known artists. The building also housed the principal sales room of the Roycrofters. This structure is currently under restoration.
The Print Shop (1901)
This L-shaped, half-timbered and stone structure with crenellated tower, completed in 1901, was built to meet the printing demands of the immensely popular publication “Message to Garcia.” Both the printing and binding operations were relocated here from the first shop in the original portion of the Roycroft Inn. Once the most modern print shop in the area, it employed over two hundred workers by 1905. Shipping and general administration were carried on here as well.
The Copper Shop (1902)
Constructed in 1902 of local stone, half-timbered and stucco in the style of a small English cottage, the second blacksmith shop initially had a brick interior and a dirt floor. Under the direction of Karl Kipp and Walter Jennings, the blacksmiths created hardware for doors, furniture, lighting fixtures, andirons, and tools for all the buildings on the Campus. Two additions were added to this building to facilitate the emerging, hammered copper product line and to bottle East Aurora maple syrup and honey. Beginning in 1912, the front room served as Elbert Hubbard's Roycroft Bank for several years
Roycroft Furniture Shop & Bindery (1904)
The furniture produced in this shop, built in 1904, was created for use in the Inn and the other Campus buildings. Elbert Hubbard was inspired to produce a simplistic style after visiting England, and eventually consumer demand evolved for the Roycroft handcrafted furniture.
Because of the steady demand for the Roycroft leather-bound books, more space was needed for bookmaking. On the other hand, the call for furniture declined, allowing for the furniture shop to be designated the new leather shop and bindery.
Stable & Laundry (1905)
Behind the Guest House sits the stable (built 1905), which was converted into a laundry facility to accommodate the laundering needs of both the Inn and Campus.
The Power House (1910)
The Power House built in 1909-1910 for $20,000, furnished electricity and heat for the printing industry and the Campus as a whole through an underground piping system. The equipment consisted of two high-speed engines, directly connected to generators capable of developing a total of about three hundred horsepower. Steam was generated in a battery of three boilers, all supplied with Jones automatic smoke-consuming stokers. The second floor housed a variety of auxiliary Roycroft groups such as the Roycroft Concert Band, Orchestra, baseball team, and the local drama club
It suffered a devastating fire in February 1997 and in the winter of 2004 lost two exterior walls due to harsh weather conditions. A complete reconstruction of the building began in the summer of 2010 with a completed in 2012. The structure is now a multi-purpose facility containing the Campus Visitor Center and space for meetings and educational classes. For more information on the interior space and renting options please click here
Foundry & Shipping Building (1919)
Built circa 1919, this space was originally connected to the furniture shop by a second story bridge for easier transport of both furniture and books. This cinderblock building also served as the copper shop’s foundry division and, when space was needed for the Campus’s many vehicles, garages were added onto the structure to house them.
The Appian Way
Shortly after the turn of the century, a walkway called “The Appian Way” was formed through the middle of the Campus Green. Its purpose was to connect the Roycroft Inn to the rest of the Campus, much in the same manner that the original Roman Appian Way connected to the rest of the Italian peninsula.
Special Guest House
Originally built in the 1880’s as a Victorian, Queen Anne style, private residence, Elbert Hubbard purchased the property to provide a comfortable resting place for Campus visitors. It became a temporary home away from home for many distinguished guests, including Thomas Edison, Susan B. Anthony, and Henry Ford. In the early 1900s, it was connected to the Inn by a peristyle or porch, with the set of columns lining the front of the building. This gave the structure a more coherent and pleasing appearance