ROYCROFT CAMPUS – EAST AURORA, NY – 6 and 7 October, 2014

The Road Scholar program I am attending is THE HISTORY OF EH-50THE ARTS AND CRAFTS MOVEMENT.  I choose this because of a developing interest in the time period as I became a full-time bookseller, and because as I review the Road Scholar programs I seek out adventures that include things that I cannot experience as a private tourist.  Again, I choose well, and after day one am ecstatic.

In reaction to the impact of the Industrial Revolution on society and artistic production, and based upon William Morris’ work in England, Elbert Hubbard founded his

Statue of Elbert Hubbard

Statue of Elbert Hubbard

Roycroft Campus in 1895 as a communal business and crafts colony.  It was one of the many utopian styled societies formed in response to the shoddy, mass-produced goods, and ills of factory life. It functioned like the old guild systems. Until it closed in 1938, the Roycroft Artisans (Roycrofters) became well-known for their hand-printed books, furniture, and metal work.  The campus grew from the original print shop (Hubbard’s original main interest).  People wanted to visit, and he had to tear down his home and build a hotel.  This connected with a peristyle to the original print shop building, and the “guest house” next door that he purchased prior to the

View leaving the second floor of the guest house.

View leaving the second floor of the guest house.

hotel being built.  I am staying in the guest house (sadly because I want to see the old hotel rooms – will ask to get access to one for pictures) BUT I am in good company in the guest house with spirits of Thomas A. Edison, Henry Ford, Teddy Roosevelt and Susan B. Anthony who stayed there before me (not this century).

What is exceptional about this program, is that the key leader, Kitty Turgeon, is the individual responsible for renaissance of the Roycroft movement, the preservation of the Roycroft Inn, and the National Historic Landmark designation for the 13 buildings extant of the Roycroft Campus. Since 1991, she has been the executive director for the Foundation for the Study of the Arts and Crafts Movement at Roycroft – just google her.  And to top off the uniqueness of the program, on Monday we had an evening reception at her home (originally owned by the Roycroft artist Alexis Fournier)

Here are some more images around the Inn.

You need to learn about Elbert Hubbard (1856 – 1915 when lost on the Lusitania). Our Monday lectures introduced us to the Inn, Campus, and the History and Philosophy of the Arts and Crafts Movement and the Roycrofters Prominence in It.  Although having a vague idea of the movement, it was the right time to attend because I have had discussions the past year with several people about the beauty of nature and the connections with a spiritual being – it ties in, I needed to understand better.  So much to share, so I have decided to give you some snipits from my notes, hoping you will want to delve further on your own.

Hubbard began as a salesman for the Larkin Soap Company in Buffalo, NY, and excelled as a marketer.   An exceptional marketer, he invented the idea of premiums from box tops, and coupons. But at 36 he became bored, and wanting to be a writer sold his interest in the firm for about $75,000.  He tried Harvard, but after a few months took a Grand Tour.  In England he met William Morris, and became fascinated with Morris’ Kelmscott Press, and the Arts and Crafts Movement. He returned to East Aurora buying land and printing presses.  Changing his life was the publication of A MESSAGE TO GARCIA in 1899.   A best seller, only behind the Bible and Dictionary, the message of his essay was a solid work ethic to always do your best, and do what was right.  His popularity with his publication, THE PHILISTINE, A PERIODICAL OF PROTEST, grew exponentially, and he had to build a 27,000 square foot printing facility.  Eventually over 500 people worked on the campus and the farms to support the campus.

The community philosophy was to make beautiful things to last.  His movement was not a style, but a way of life – a spiritual path.  There is a creative urge in man to have expression to fulfill his reason to grow – learn – and, express. You need to get your soul into your work – the spiritual way of looking at it.

Hubbard was a marketing genius, and promoted his movement with the incorporation of nature and beauty.  By surrounding yourself with beauty it promotes the good chemicals in your brain and body.  Some key features of Hubbard’s philosophies included: taking care of the planet (e.g Teddy Roosevelt and the establishment of national parks); gender equality which he promoted in East Aurora; the need to take personal responsibility to exercise and take care of your health.  The symbols balance body, mind, and spirit.  The roots of the movement include honesty, truth, and spirituality – which also are signified with the medieval origins of the Roycroft symbol.

I am afraid looking at my dozen pages of notes that I am not expressing not conveying all that I wish, but there is so much to learn from this experience.  You may wish to check out the PBS website on Hubbard for a start.  I will continue to review my notes from Kitty’s talk.

We then walked around the neighboring streets, and I was struck by the architecture.  More on that tomorrow.  In some free time I had a chance to run downtown on my own to the “main attraction” – Vidler’s 5&10.


When have you last seen gondolas in a store?


At 5:30 we had a reception and tour of Kitty’s home, originally owned by Alexis Fournier.

Reception at Kitty's. Her home is amazing with its Roycroft items everywhere.

Reception at Kitty’s. Her home is amazing with its Roycroft items everywhere.

A veritable treasure trove of A&C items, including a unique settee valued at $40,000.  Just fun things to have around to enjoy and share.

(December 2, 2014 – a sad update – when I left this great conference, I was told quietly that Kitty was going to have heart surgery in a couple weeks.  Recently I have seen search engine “hits” on this page, and was afraid to think why.  I received an email from Jill and learned of Kitty’s passing. What a treat to have known her and spent some time with this vivacious lady who will be missed by all.  At the bottom of this post I have copy/pasted her obituary from The Buffalo News.)

Tuesday started with a demonstration by a master Roycroft Renaissance silversmith


TEH-2which was followed by a printing demonstration in the Roycroft Chapel (I know more about letterpress than that young lady).  Next we could try our hand at hand-illuminating a printed work.  Lunch was then at the Elm St. Bakery.

After lunch with the group on Tuesday, I spent an hour back walking and observing East Aurora, New York architecture around the Roycroft Campus that we had toured on Monday. Here are some of the homes that struck me in this idyllic looking New England Village, which has its roots back to the New England Adams family. (Remember to click on any image to open up the slide show gallery)

Kitty then gave another presentation in the Chapel – Hubbard’s

Kitty explaining stairs in the Chapel. Note Roycroft symbol on post.

Kitty explaining stairs in the Chapel. Note Roycroft symbol on post.

chapel, is not a chapel as you would expect it. In ancient times, chapel was the “guild hall of the printers” where the word comes from – or its editorial content.  (December 2, 2014 – this may have been one of the last photos of this gracious lady)






Outside Chapel doorway.

Outside Chapel doorway.

And, when in East Aurora, NY, you have to stop at the birthplace and world headquarters of Fisher-Price Toys.  So, here are a few images for David, Gary, and Julie – and you other kids out there.






After dinner we had a “show and tell” of Roycroft items.  I brought a pair of bookends and three bound volumes of Hubbard’s PHILISTINE that I have had for years.  Kitty dated my bookends at pre-1915 based on the mark (value had been $500) and everyone enjoyed my bound PHILISTINEs.  I would have included a picture, but I already repacked them in the car.

Well, this got verbose, but actually re-looking at my notes there is so much more I want to share.  There may have to be a “Roycroft evening at 44” sometime to continue.  I will try to shorten my writing about Wednesday and Thursday.  Yours, RAY

Kitty Turgeon, 81, dies; preservationist was devoted to Roycroft
Passionate preservationist worked to save historic site

BY: Michelle Kearns – Published: November 4, 2014, 07:22 PM

Kitty Turgeon, a preservationist credited with saving East Aurora’s Roycroft Campus and winning it National Historic Landmark status before preservation was fashionable, died Monday in Buffalo. She was 81.

She was known for her warmth, kindness and passion for the Arts and Crafts movement’s local roots.

The former Edythe Smith, an elegant, imposing woman with striking red hair, moved to Buffalo after she married restaurateur Frank Turgeon. The couple, who had two children, eventually divorced, but the restaurant he introduced her to in East Aurora became part of her life’s work.

Ms. Turgeon was nicknamed Kitty because her big, bright eyes were compared to a cat’s.

After her first tour of the Roycroft Inn, which would become one of the 21 restaurants in a collection owned by her former husband and his brother Ralph, she asked of the Roycroft founder, “Who the hell is Elbert Hubbard?” That was the beginning of her shift from interior decoration to historic preservation and her championing of the Roycroft movement, the eclectic turn-of-the-last-century community with printing press, farms and artisans making furniture and pottery, where 500 were once employed.

“I’m devastated” by Ms. Turgeon’s death, said Sandy Starks, a longtime friend. Reflecting on the Roycroft, she said, “If it wasn’t for her, it wouldn’t have landmark status … She really started the renaissance back in 1976.”

Ms. Turgeon, author of cookbooks and histories, was in the midst of writing about the Roycroft’s current renaissance. She lived in a Roycroft artists’ house at the edge of the historic South Grove Street campus and was at the inn as recently as last month giving tours and attending about at the Roycroft arts and crafts conference.

She grew up in Chicago, earned an undergraduate degree at Cornell University and returned to her alma mater in 1975, commuting from Buffalo to Ithaca to study for a master’s in historic preservation, the first of its kind at the time. “By then, I was already in love with the Roycroft,” Ms. Turgeon said in a recording from a recent talk at the Central Library in downtown Buffalo. “It was because it fit my philosophy of life. My way of thinking and Elbert Hubbard’s way of thinking were just alike.”

Hubbard, a former salesman at Buffalo’s Larkin Soap Co., left his job and moved to East Aurora in the late 1800s to found a community of artisans whose goods were sold nationwide. It was part of the Arts and Crafts movement, in the United States and Europe, which celebrated handmade things in opposition to the profusion of the industrial age’s factory-made goods.

“Arts and Crafts is not a style,” she said in her library talk. “It’s a philosophy.” Ms. Turgeon was known to friends for her heart-to-heart hugs, an embodiment of a Roycroft theme. The words “head,” “heart” and “hand” were carved on the door to Hubbard’s wife Alice’s office, which is now at the entry to guest rooms at the inn. They were a nod to a John Ruskin quote and fundamental Roycroft creed: “A belief in working with the head, hand and heart and mixing enough play with the work so that every task is pleasurable and makes for health and happiness.”

The inn is now owned by the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation, which paid $9 million to help restore and reopen it in 1995. It is a centerpiece of the campus, with assorted buildings that have been undergoing gradual restoration by the inn’s nonprofit neighbor, Roycroft Campus Corp.

After Ms. Turgeon arrived at the aging inn in the 1970s, she struggled with its expensive needs. It closed in 1987 and reopened after the Wendt Foundation took over. Her Cornell studies, and an enthusiastic professor, led her to decide that landmark status could lead to grants and support to cover the high price of restoration. When the landmark office lost her application for the Roycroft, then-Rep. Jack Kemp stepped in, Starks said. He was having a Republican fundraising party at the inn, and Ms. Turgeon mentioned her difficulties. The next day, an aide called and began to shepherd the process: Kemp, a former Buffalo Bills quarterback, had stayed at the inn with teammates while the fledgling team practiced on the polo fields of what is now Knox Farm State Park.

Now the campus has the nation’s highest historic distinction, like the White House and the Empire State Building.

With its vaulted ceilings and lobby murals of world landmarks such as Egypt’s pyramids, the Roycroft is the kind of place that families go for special occasions. “What it means to the community is invaluable, and Kitty always recognized that,” said Martha Augat, innkeeper who oversees the 26-room hotel and the restaurant.

Ms. Turgeon was a founder of the Roycrofters at Large Association, the Foundation for the Study of the Arts and Crafts Movement and the Preservation Coalition of Erie County. She designed the “Road Scholar” program to bring guests to East Aurora to learn about the Arts and Crafts movement. She served on many boards and committees at institutions such as the Burchfield Penney Art Center, the Buffalo History Museum, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Historic Preservation Commission of East Aurora. She was given an Arts and Crafts Lifetime Achievement Award at a national Arts and Crafts conference in North Carolina.

Survivors include her former husband, Frank Turgeon; two sisters, Josepha “Rusty” Kunz and Lynn Mousseau; a son, Mark Turgeon; a daughter, Gillian Turgeon; a grandson; and a great-grandson. A memorial service is being planned for later this month at St. Matthias Episcopal Church in East Aurora.

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4 Responses to ROYCROFT CAMPUS – EAST AURORA, NY – 6 and 7 October, 2014

  1. Betty says:

    Great post, definitely not “verbose”. Very interesting material. Hubbard might require some reading on my part. I am still waiting for the answer as to why East Aurora is west of Aurora…

  2. Marian L. Michlig says:

    Hi Ray. Love the high pitched roofs on the sides of the homes. Very interesting.
    Maybe they are common in the New England states, but I have never been there.
    Here, I learned about the beginning of Fisher-Price toys. What a small world.
    Great trip. Thanks again for sharing and never worry about trips being to short or too long.


  3. Roberta Streeter says:

    Hi Ray I am off to a Road Scholar program Oct.19-24 @Swanzey ,NH I am going to learn
    about Blood ,Bullets Ballistics and How the CSIs works!!!
    Something different foe me! Happy Travels Roberta

  4. jill says:

    Great post Ray!
    My husband is a Roycroft Artisan, working on the Campus, who was rather close with Kitty..
    I found your post through an image search for Kitty… your dinning room shot captured her amazing ability to share her home…

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