Roycroft Renaissance: Recent Visit to Elbert Hubbard’s Utopian Community

Posted on October 05, 2016 by Yoshiko Yamamoto

“This is the personal printing press that belonged to Elbert Hubbard,” explained Curt Maranto, as he toured me through the printing room at Roycroft Campus in the village of East Aurora, half-an-hour outside of Buffalo, New York.  The old iron-hand press stood there, covered in dust. It seemed ready to be cleaned and oiled, to be put to a good use once again. Curt is a member of the Roycroft Campus Corporation (http://www.roycroftcampuscorp.com) that has been instrumental in bringing back the Roycroft campus to its original glory. 

The Campus was originally created by Elbert Hubbard, to realize his vision to create a community of handicrafts that encompassed printing, woodworking and metal-work. The colorful self-made soap salesman, Elbert Hubbard claimed to have met William Morris, the father of the Arts & Crafts Movement, during his trip to England in 1894. Whether he really met Morris or not, the impact was immense. A year later he began publishing books and journals in the style of Morris’s Kelmscott Press. A great writer of his day, Hubbard penned many popular pieces for Roycroft publications. His most popular Message to Garcia sold over 40 million copies and was translated into 37 languages. 
After the tragic deaths of Hubbard and his wife with the sinking of Lusitania in 1915, the campus fell apart.
When my husband, Bruce Smith, visited Roycroft in 1996 for his research, he says “it was still pretty bare and skeletal. The Inn was operating, but was still in the process of restoration. Bob and Kitty (Robert Rust & Kitty Turgeon) hosted me and I had such a wonderful time with those two who kept the flame alive. The print shop was closed."
Now twenty years later the Roycoft Campus is thriving once again.  The entire campus was designated as National Historic Landmark in 1986. The charming Roycroft Inn has been beautifully restored and I enjoyed my lovely lunch there in the sunny veranda. The Print Shop is getting filled with many old letterpress printing presses and type cabinets.  The Chapel (not a religious chapel, but is a guild hall for printers in Medieval times) is undergoing a restoration. The Power House that supplied electricity and heating for the community now is a visitor center and a gallery. The Furniture Shop & Bindery building now houses Roycroft Antique Center, Norberg’s Frame Shop, and Floyd East (http://www.floydeast.com) where Jim Cordes is daily creating beautiful craftsman furniture. 
And Copper Shop is filled with quality handcrafted items and gifts. The Shop carries our letterpress note cards and block prints also.  If you’re in the area, please stop by and browse their excellent selection of our prints. (As a matter of fact, the shop still has one matted and one framed “When Poppies Bloom” print. This print has been sold out on our website.)
East Aurora is only half-hour from Buffalo, New York. If you’re ever in the area — whether you’re sightseeing Niagara Falls or touring through another Arts & Crafts gem in the area, Darwin E. Martin House by Frank Lloyd Wright (which by the way is undergoing a 60-million-dollars restoration and is absolutely stunning!) — I highly recommend a nice visit to the Roycroft Campus and enjoy an overnight stay or a delightful lunch at the historic Inn. 

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