A printing press that inks paper with the pump of a foot. A stone factory where pianos on every floor once played music. A hidden ceiling ladder that leads to a turret room with views of Main Street from porthole-like windows.
Century-old leftovers, like these, are featured in a newly expanded assortment of tours at the Roycroft Campus, which has been working in the last few years to put itself back together the way it used to be.
“It was the Disney of the 19th century,” said Alan Nowicki, program director.
The nonprofit Roycroft corporation, in the midst of renovating and buying the assortment of original buildings, will host three kinds of tours through the grounds this summer. It was here, in 1895, where Elbert Hubbard, a former soap salesman and junior partner at Buffalo’s Larkin Company, founded his community-style business enterprise that made and sold Arts-and-Crafts-style goods while teaching workers to take a handmade-craft approach.
Hubbard modeled the looks of the campus on an idealized vision of the English countryside. The “Chapel” wasn’t a church but rather the Roycroft headquarters with offices, art gallery and a meeting room, complete with pews. A stone well, set to be rebuilt this summer, didn’t draw water but was instead intended as gathering place for workers learning artisanal crafts.
On Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays this summer, two kinds of tours of the campus will be offered.
The shorter tour, which costs $15, takes visitors on an hour’s walk around the newly landscaped grounds and may include some indoor stops. A $30, two-hour exploration will take visitors through more buildings – from the recently repurposed Power House, where heat and electricity were once generated, to the Chapel and the Inn, with a with rosy sitting room where murals depict Roycroft as one of the eight intellectual centers of the world, along with Egypt, Venice and Mumbai.
The third kind of tour will be offered occasionally: “behind the scenes” tours that will explore more hidden places, like the dusty, closed-off turret room at the Chapel and the basement storage room in the Inn that was once a bar.
The campus, with its newly finished landscaping over what had been crumbling asphalt, has a promising look
“It has a great potential for restoration,” said Curt Maranto, Roycroft’s new executive director and a former Disney executive, as he showed a visitor around on a recent afternoon. “It’s all here.”
Summer projects at the campus include fundraising for the $1.3 million needed to buy the print factory from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, which has used it as offices. So far, $600,000 worth of grants and donations has been raised, leaving $700,000 needed by the fall deadline. Another $25,000 donation will cover the restoration of the well that archeologists discovered while preparing for the landscaping.
For more information, call 655-0261.