The Roycroft Campus, which is home to the turn-of-the-century artisan and reformist community that helped make East Aurora famous, will get a grassy makeover this summer. Landscaping to remove a “sea of asphalt” should start within the month.
The $627,000 project, funded by a Department of Transportation grant, aims to help restore the grounds Elbert Hubbard founded in 1895.
“We want it to recall what it had been in the past,” said Christine Peters, executive director of the Roycroft Campus Corporation. The nonprofit is working with East Aurora on the project, which is expected to start by July and finish by November.
It includes expanding grass buffers between parking lots in an effort to make the National Historic Landmark, bounded by South Grove and Main streets, more inviting and accessible.
The 5-acre campus deteriorated after the community dissolved in bankruptcy during the Depression in 1939, and the Roycroft property was divided and sold. Now some of the six big remaining buildings, which are held by various owners, are separated by wide stretches of asphalt for parking.
The landscaping work, which is to be done by Zoladz Construction of Alden, is part of a larger restoration plan now under way.
• About $500,000 for a new clay tile roof for the “copper shop,” now a gift shop and gallery with a second floor office for some of the 10 campus staff members.
• About $4 million went to rebuild the “Power House,” which opened last year, across the street from the Roycroft Inn. The new building is on the footprint of the old home for the steam boilers and generators. It has meeting space, offices and an open area for art workshops and classes.
In preparation for this summer’s landscaping, an archeological dig was commissioned, and elements of the original grounds were found, including a path.
Soon it will once again curve by the old “Chapel,” one of the many Roycroft elements being newly considered.
The turreted stone building was originally used as a Roycroft meeting room, gallery and sales office. It then became the Aurora Town Hall, until last year when municipal offices were relocated to a former school on Gleed Avenue.
The Wendt Foundation, which also owns the Roycroft Inn, bought the Chapel and is now developing a plan for it, Peters said.
For now, this summer’s landscaping work, which has been in the works for about seven years, will be one of the obvious signs of change that lies ahead for the campus that Peters considers to be the “jewel” of the village.
“It’s more than exciting,” she said. “It’s deliriously exciting. We’ve been waiting for this to start now for years.”