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Roycroft Power House to get $3 million makeover

The century-old Roycroft Power House— a landmark on the campus known as the cradle of the American Arts & Crafts movement — will be reconstructed in a $3 million-plus makeover.

The Power House was ravaged by a 1997 fire that destroyed all but two walls of the historic East Aurora structure. In recent years, it has been the source of complaints because of its dilapidated condition.

The project is considered a huge step in efforts to restore the campus and re-create the working artisan community dating to Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters. The campus was the only facility of its kind anywhere in the early 1900s, when as many as 500 people worked there.

The campus today is a National Historic Landmark, and the nonprofit Roycroft Campus Corp.'s vision is to have it seem as if Hubbard and the Roycrofters never left. The Power House rebuild "starts the hype of a renewed rebirth of the campus," said Christine A. Peters, executive director of Roycroft Campus Corp.

The reconstruction of the Power House, built in 1909-1910, has long been anticipated by the East Aurora community and Roycroft Campus Corp., which bought what remained of the building in 2005 after it had been converted to a professional building. It will now be transformed into a building to expand educational programming on the campus.

"We're all floating about a foot off the ground," said Peters. "Since 1997, the community has been looking at it for so long in its deteriorated and dilapidated state, that we felt we owed it to the community to do that [project] first."

The rebuild was expected to begin in spring 2009 but stalled when fundraising languished during the economic downturn. A state grant received last summer revived the project, which also will be done with private funding.

All that remains of its original structure is a 20-foot stub of what was an 84-foot chimney and a small corner of where the coal bunker was located. That will begin to change Saturday, when groundbreaking begins for its reconstruction.

Completion of the reconstruction is expected by spring 2011.

"It will not function as a Power House any longer but will be dedicated to educational programming," Peters said.

The Power House served as an anchor to the campus, providing electricity for its printing industry and the campus, along with heat to all 14 buildings through an underground piping system that still exists but is no longer used.

A total of $2.6 million has been raised so far, and the remaining $500,000 is expected to be be raised through a capital campaign. Money raised for the reconstruction includes $1.5 million from the Empire State Development Corp., a $350,000 state grant through Sen. William

T. Stachowski a $250,000 state grant through through Sen. Dale Volker, a $20,000 state grant through Assemblywoman Jane Corwin and about $115,000 in grants from the Environmental Protection Fund.

Buffalo-based Resetarits Construction Corp. has been hired to do exterior construction work. It will be built to reflect the original building, including the 84-foot chimney. The goal is to re-create its appearance as close as possible and include a partial second floor with a catwalk so that visitors can view activities on the lower level. A mural of the facility's old generators also will be painted on the walls, including maps showing the rooms of the Power House.

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