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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Magazine Stand; #80; carved orb and cross mark; 64 inches by 17 ¾ inches; sold for $18,000. Photo courtesy of David Rago.
As you walk through the giant doors of the Roycroft Inn in East Aurora, N.Y., you get the feel of a building that easily housed 500 craftspeople. It’s sturdy and still like a great cathedral.

The Roycroft community located on the campus here was a focal point for people interested in the Arts and Crafts movement. Opened in 1905, the inn lodged thousands of visitors from around the world.

The floor plan and furniture in the inn are original or authentic reproductions. This is how it looked 100-years-ago complete with wicker furniture, Roycroft lamps and William Morris wallpaper. Carved into the bedroom doors lining the halls are the names of famous people. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charlotte Bronte, Henry David Thoreau, and Susan B. Anthony are among them.

Like a time capsule, the inn is one of 14 buildings on the National Historic site where writer-philosopher Elbert Hubbard started his utopian arts and crafts community in 1895. Printers, furniture makers, metalsmiths, leathersmiths, and bookbinders lived and worked together here.

"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," John Ruskin, the writer said.

The Roycroft art colony embraced this creed like an old friend and what resulted was nothing short of miraculous. Everything from boxes, books, purses, rugs, baskets, place mats, lighting, wood carvings, and furniture to copper, silver, and brass pieces were produced.

Simple shapes, clear lines and minimal decoration--that was Roycroft in a nutshell. The principle behind each piece was "Not How Cheap, But How Good."

Gone was the fussy Victorian clutter. Gone was the bric-a-brac. In its place was a new style of design with an emphasis on function and creating a harmonizing feel to any room.

In a world of mass production and assembly line sameness, the Arts and Crafts designer was going for an authentic, functional look. The construction was critical. Solid, honest materials were used.

The basic beauty of the wood was always emphasized. Decoration was usually limited to hand-hammered iron or copper metalware.

Roycroft was a style for people who sought simplicity, quality and handcraftsmanship. It was furniture crafted from happy hands--a community not a factory.

The main Roycroft mark used was a carved cross and orb enclosing an “R” or an incised “Roycroft.” The symbol was taken from a 14th century monastic mark used on hand-copied manuscripts.

Some of their oak pieces were also carved with a decorative oak leaf. Pins, pegs and mortise-and-tenon joints abound in the solidly constructed pieces.

In 1915 Hubbard and his wife, well-known suffragette Alice Moore Hubbard died in the sinking of the Lusitania and the Roycroft community went into a slow decline. In 1938, the Roycrofters closed shop.

On Sept. 29 & 30, Dave Rago held his Craftsman auction weekend in Lambertville, N.J.

Included in the sale was a collection of Roycroft items. Here are some current values.


Drop Front Desk; #91; with gallery interior; carved orb and cross mark; 44 ¼ inches by 38 ½ inches; $6,600.

Leather Armchair; tooled leather; rare; carved orb and cross mark; 36 ½ inches by 24 inches; $7,200.

Magazine Stand; tall trapezoidal; #80; carved orb and cross mark; 64 inches by 17 ¾ inches; $18,000.

Table Lamp; hand hammered copper; designed by Dard Hunter; flaring bright green and purple leaded slag glass shade; carved orb and cross mark; 22 ¼ inches by 18 ¾ inches; $20,400.

Ceiling Fixture; designed by Dard Hunter; three cylindrical leaded glass drops in bright green and purple leaded glass; 22 inches by 10 ¼ inches; $30,000.

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