Elbert Hubbard lovers know it has taken decades to get an ambitious restoration of the famed Roycroft Campus under way.
Now that it’s happening, some in East Aurora are concerned about a deteriorating campus building that is partly visible from Main Street, and are worried about public safety.
Some say the restoration of the Roycroft Stock House – more than a century old and commonly referred to by locals as the Roycroft warehouse or the shipping building – has been dragging on for way too long, and the building has become a hazard on the National Historic Landmark campus.
But Stock House owner Boice Lydell, a Roycroft artifacts collector from Lakewood, said he is trying to work through the tedious process of duplicating the original rusticated building blocks for the building’s exterior to have it comply with “proper historic aesthetics.” He is pleading for patience.
But Mayor Allan Kasprzak is quickly losing his.
“It should not take nine years,” the mayor said in an interview. “This has been going on way too long. It’s become a joke. The Egyptian pyramids were built faster than this.”
The condition of the Stock House is the subject of chatter on the campus.
“I certainly hope that the building doesn’t collapse,” said Christine Peters, executive director of the Roycroft Campus Corp. “I do hope Boice can get it done sooner, rather than later. Both the village and us are concerned about the building.”
Peters has known Lydell for years and knows he is passionate about doing everything in keeping with the true form of the Roycroft.
“Boice is a purist. He’s an individual, but that doesn’t excuse all the neglect for nine years,” Peters said. “Our major concern is the safety of the Copper Shop. Now, it’s gotten to the point of safety.”
Mark Warren, the head of the village’s Historic Preservation Commission, backs Lydell.
“It may appear as excuses, but he’s not making it up,” Warren said. “Everybody is impatient.”
Lydell first approached the village’s Historic Preservation Commission about the project nine years ago. He has told the village that the building remains safe.
Lydell has not returned phone calls from The Buffalo News about his building, which sits to the rear and side of the Copper Shop. For years, it stored items and was one of the later buildings constructed on campus. At one time, it was connected to the furniture building and was tied into a passageway used to distribute goods.
Now, two engineering firms have issued dueling reports about the structure. The village’s engineering firm, Clark Patterson Lee, and Lydell’s engineer, Optima Design & Engineering, have very conflicting assessments on the Stock House.
The village’s engineer, Joseph P. Rausch with Clark Patterson Lee, was not given access inside the building and based his report on the structural condition of the Stock House on a Nov. 2 visit. His report noted that the north face of the building has failed, citing two very large cracks. His report to the village also noted that “masonry has become so unstable that the owner has installed engineered shoring to stabilize the wall.”
“This, at best, is a Band-Aid and does nothing to address the problem,” Rausch wrote in his site observation report to the village.
He also noted a third, large crack of concern about 8 feet around the corner on the east face of the property. “This portion of the building has no visible shoring” and the crack may pose the most immediate concern, he noted.
However, Lydell’s, engineer painted a different picture. LauriTraynor assured village leaders recently that shoring at the existing rear wall appears to be in good condition and is tight to the wall.
“The floors and roof are shored form the inside, so there is not building load on the wall,” Traynor said in an interview, noting that the village engineer was not allowed inside to inspect the building.
Traynor noted in his Nov. 16 one-paragraph memo to Lydell that the interior of the building is dry and there is no evidence of any roof leaks.
The village is insisting that Lydell appear before trustees to answer questions, and also has asked for its engineer to be allowed inside the building to inspect it for himself.
“Nobody wants the building knocked down. We just want it fixed up,” Kasprzak said. “We’re not seeing any progress. This cage needs to be shaken.”