The reconstruction of the Power House building on the Roycroft Campus in East Aurora is in full swing. Work is expected to be wrapped-up in time for the National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference in October.
Elbert Hubbard was the founder of the five-acre campus over 100 years ago. He had served as an executive with the Larkin Company and later decided to focus on the handicraft in a world where industrialization was taking over. The campus supported hundreds of craftspeople and was largely responsible for promoting the Arts and Crafts movement in America.
Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, the campus still functions as it was originally intended but with less craftsmen and on a smaller scale. It is also positioning itself as a larger cultural tourism draw for the region.
Since 1989, the Roycroft Revitalization Corporation (RRC) has sought to preserve and promote the historic campus and the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement through the acquisition and restoration of the buildings and grounds in a manner consistent with its landmark status.
The RCC created a master plan for revitalization of the campus that is broken into three phases and expected to cost approximately $18 million to execute. Phase I (2006-2011) is almost finished and will be crowned off with the rebuilding of the Power House which was ravaged by a fire fourteen years ago. Other projects included the stabilization of the Copper Shop, restoration of the grounds, and infrastructure work including a new water line and drainage improvements.
The circa-1909 Power House was the last building built on the campus by the Roycrofters. Only about five percent of the original building was salvageable after the 1997 fire, but the RCC decided to purchase the site in 2005 and rebuild. The $3.25 million reconstruction effort is guided by plans drawn up by Flynn Battaglia Architects.
Due to the site’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, RCC and Flynn Battaglia worked with New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation on the rebuilding plan.
Flynn Battaglia also worked closely with contractor Resetarits Construction Corporation and Orchard Park-based Boston Valley Terra Cotta on the project. Boston Valley produced the roofing tile and the terra cotta on the 84′ tall chimney.
Based on the remaining physical evidence and the available photographic record, it was possible to recreate the exterior form with a high degree of accuracy. Custom concrete masonry walls, stucco and half-timbered gables, and the tile roofing closely match original forms.
According to John Krouse, President and General Manager of Boston Valley Terra Cotta, it was important that the roofing tile not only look like, and also fit with, the original tile. The original roof was manufactured by the Celadon Terra Cotta Company of Alfred. About 10 percent of the original roof tile was salvaged after the fire, repaired, and reinstalled.
“We used pieces of historic tile and took samples of the fittings,” says Krouse. “We were able to match the color and profiling of the historic tile roof.”
The towering chimney was originally brick but in the rebuild is clad in terra cotta.
“Erecting a chimney that tall, particularly since it is non-functioning, presented challenges,” says Krouse. “Meeting building codes and seismicity requirements would have been very expensive.”
Instead, the chimney’s adobe color terra cotta cladding will look like brick, is lightweight, and keeps the cost down.
Phase II (2011-2016) of the plan will see the RCC purchase the chapel and the print shop buildings for reincorporation into the campus. Acquiring the buildings for public use would fulfill the RCC’s effort to include at least five of the six major buildings on the campus. This phase also includes the full restoration of the Copper Shop.
By Phase III (2016-2021), it is expected that nearly all of the remaining buildings of the campus will be owned by the RCC. At this point the campus will be able to fully support its mission and heighten the Arts and Crafts Movement experience for visitors.
President of the RCC, Doug Swift explains, “We expect Roycroft to become a gateway for visitors to begin their trip to the Buffalo area. We have the ability to capture an audience and keep them for an extended period of time.”
For Krouse, whose firm has done work across the country and on local landmarks such as the Guaranty Building, Electric Tower and City Hall, the restoration project is a source of personal pride.
“I live in East Aurora, for me it is a personal victory,” he says. “I drive by it every day.”
Images courtesy of Roycroft Campus Corporation.