Weekly Feature

2017-09-21 / Lifestyles

Life of Roycroft founder on display in East Aurora

by KATE PELCZYNSKI
East Aurora editor


Curt Maranto, left and Amizetta Haj move a model of the RMS Lusitania, the ship that was carrying Hubbard when it was sunk in 1915. Maranto is the Roycroft Campus’ executive director, and Haj is the marketing manager. Curt Maranto, left and Amizetta Haj move a model of the RMS Lusitania, the ship that was carrying Hubbard when it was sunk in 1915. Maranto is the Roycroft Campus’ executive director, and Haj is the marketing manager. It’s been a mecca for artisans from across the globe – the birthplace of the American Arts and Crafts Movement. Now, the Roycroft Campus, located in East Aurora, will also be home to a museum dedicated to the founder of the Roycroft Artisans, Elbert Hubbard.

The museum, at 31 S. Grove St., will host its grand opening celebration from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29.

Currently, the campus is home to several buildings, including the Chapel, the Print Shop, the Furniture Shop and the Copper Shop, which were vital to the success of the movement.

After the campus fell into disarray in the late 1980s, a group was formed to help preserve and restore the buildings to their original condition. Through the years, artisans have set up shop on the campus, and it has experienced a new birth.


Elbert Hubbard is shown on the RMS Lusitania just days before his death. Elbert Hubbard is shown on the RMS Lusitania just days before his death. “Because of the renaissance of the campus and the life that has suddenly been breathed back into it, individuals now have this urge to want to return things to the campus,” said Curt Maranto, the campus’s executive director.

The new 1,500-square-foot museum will give visitors a close-up look at the items that were essential to the creation of the Roycroft community, along with personal items once belonging to Hubbard. Guests will also get a chance to witness a more personal side of the man behind the movement.

Maranto says the idea for a museum was spurred by a donation from Hubbard’s great-great grandniece, Dr. Brenda Voorhis, who brought Maranto several large boxes she was planning to throw away.


A stack of letters from Elbert Hubbard is prepared for display at the new Roycroft Museum. A stack of letters from Elbert Hubbard is prepared for display at the new Roycroft Museum. “It was like Christmas,” he said. “The box was filled with personal letters from Elbert Hubbard to his family.” Maranto explained how Hubbard was known as a writer who carefully planned his letters.

“I would say the letters he sent to certain individuals had passion. [The letters] were meant to strike a certain chord within that individual so he could get something back,” he said. “These were all letters that were unguarded. It actually showed a remorseful side. It showed this loving side, a true honesty about who he was and his love for his family.” Many of the letters come from a turbulent time in Hubbard’s life when he was in the midst of a divorce and had a child out of wedlock with a schoolteacher.

The boxes also contained photo albums of Hubbard during different stages of his life, along with pictures of his family members and their homes in East Aurora. However, one of the most prized artifacts literally fell into Maranto’s hands.

“We’re flipping through envelopes very carefully so as not to damage them. And from one of the envelopes, a postcard falls out.” That postcard was dated 9:30 a.m. May 1, 1915, the day Hubbard would board the ill-fated Lusitania.

“So this is his correspondence to his mother, telling her to be well and that he loves her,” said Maranto. Six days later, the ship sunk after being hit by a torpedo launched from a German U-boat. Hubbard died, along with 1,198 others on board.

Besides the plethora of letters and photos, Maranto also received a more personal item of Hubbard’s from his great-great granddaughter: his coat.

Amizetta Haj, marketing and visitor engagement manager for the Roycroft Campus, describes a strange feeling upon seeing the coat.

“You see a picture of him on the wall, and you’re like, he was a man, and he lived, and had this whole life. And then you see his jacket, this 100-year-old jacket laying here, and it’s like, ‘This is so eerie.’”

Maranto says these are the moments that make all their efforts worth it.

“You open this up, and here’s another piece of history — a piece of Elbert Hubbard. A piece that you can physically reach out and touch, that lets you know this man was real. It’s not just photos.”

Haj agreed, adding, “I think the museum with artifacts like the jacket and the letters really does bring the history to life in a way that’s never been done on this campus.”

Admission to the museum is $5. For more information, visit www.RoycroftCampusCorp.com.

email: KateP@beenews.com

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