Arts & Crafts Movement
Buffalo and environs were at the epicenter of the social and cultural ferment of the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Among the leaders of this turn-of-the-century cultural vanguard was Elbert Hubbard, founder of the Roycroft community in nearby East Aurora and father of the American Arts and Crafts movement.
Hubbard was a partner in the Larkin Soap Company of Buffalo - the same company that helped to bring Frank Lloyd Wright to the attention of the world by bringing him East to design its administration building and the homes of several of its executives - when he decided to strike out on his own and pursue a career as a writer. While traveling in England he visited the home of William Morris, the visionary behind the Arts & Crafts Movement, Inspired by Morris, Hubbard returned to East Aurora and founded the Roycroft Press. Success quickly followed.
The Message to Garcia, a motivational piece on initiative and devotion to duty, catapulted Hubbard to international fame. As a result of the essay’s success, he became a highly paid lecturer, a columnist for Hearst newspapers and a public figure of considerable renown.
Armed with a burgeoning reputation and a considerable fortune from his stake in the Larkin Company, Hubbard began recruiting the country’s finest craftsmen, seeking out printers, book designers, painters, sculptors, furniture makers, metalsmiths, photographers, potters, leatherworkers and writers. The Roycroft Campus continued to grow and by 1902 was teeming with activity. The Roycroft Inn was built between 1903 and 1905 to house the many visitors who came to East Aurora to see the work of this acclaimed collective and pay homage to Hubbard.
On May 7, 1915 Hubbard and his wife, Alice Moore Hubbard, died in the sinking of Lusitania, when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland. Their tragic loss was mourned by East Aurora and throughout the world.
Hubbard’s son, Elbert II, successfully managed the Inn and the Roycroft enterprises in the wake of his father’s death until 1938, when the ravages of the Great Depression caused the once thriving institution to close.
After years of neglect, the Inn was lovingly restored in 1995. Today, it is an internationally-acclaimed attraction, visited by lovers of fine design, collectors of authentic American craftsmanship and those seeking a respite from the cacophony of contemporary life. The nearby Elbert Hubbard Roycroft Museum and the Schoolhouse Gallery are also "must sees" for anyone interested in the legacy of Elbert Hubbard.
East Aurora: An American Classic
East Aurora offers visitors a charming slice of turn-of-the-century American life, evoking an era of simple pleasures, genteel pastimes and timeless craftsmanship. Its tree-lined streets and historic Main Street were built to be seen and experienced at a leisurely pace and with a desire to linger.
East Aurora is perhaps best known as the home of the Roycroft Arts & Crafts community. Conceived of by author, lecturer, and philosopher Elbert Hubbard, the Roycroft campus was a self-sustaining community of artisans that lasted from 1895 through 1938, when it succumbed to the Great Depression.
Today, the National Historic Landmark Roycroft Inn and Campus has been revived as an internationally acclaimed attraction, visited by lovers of fine design and collectors of authentic American craftsmanship. The nearby Elbert Hubbard Museum documents Hubbard’s extraordinary life and the Schoolhouse Gallery exhibits the work of Roycroft Renaissance craftsmen. Perhaps the best way to experience the many charms of this quirky and distinctive village is to partake of one of master storyteller and author Mason Winfield’s popular ghost walks of the campus and vicinity. Be sure to also visit the National Historic Landmark Millard Fillmore House, once home to the man locals playfully refer to as "our least known Prez of all."
East Aurora is also known as Toy Town, U.S.A., owing to the long-time presence of toy maker Fisher-Price. Explore & More...a children’s museum is another attraction that families with children will enjoy.
The East Aurora shopping district is the heart of the community, anchored by Vidler’s Five & Dime, which opened 70 years ago and is still owned and operated by the Vidler family. Sundries of every description can be found in its overstuffed aisles and the penny candy counter still holds fascination for children of all ages. Recent additions to Main Street such as antique stores, art galleries and coffee shops have only served to enhance the street’s appeal while helping to maintain the historic character and locally-owned ethic that has prevailed since the days of the village’s founding.