The Roycrofter community (also known as Roycroft) of East Aurora, New York was founded in 1895 by Elbert Hubbard, a wealthy former soap executive from Buffalo, New York who was inspired by the English Arts & Crafts movement and the work of John Ruskin and William Morris. Hubbard dreamt of becoming a writer and raising the intellectual consciousness of the United States. Like Ruskin and Morris, he believed this could be done through a return to handicraft and the revival of a communal craftsman life.
Hubbard’s message was well received. Soon his publications, The Philstine and later The Fra, were circulated throughout the country, bringing craftsmen and women to the community who desired to create their own works and share in the ideals of Hubbard and the fellow Roycrofters. By 1910, there were over 500 Roycrofter craftsmen. Before long, visitors were coming to see the Roycrofters, buy their wares, and listen to the lectures of Elbert Hubbard. At first, Hubbard allowed these visitors to stay in his own home for a small fee. However, the popularity of the community and celebrity of Hubbard made this situation impractical quite quickly. It was decided that the Phalanstery, a building that once housed the original print shop and offices of the community, then a dormitory of Roycroft workers, would be remodeled and become the Roycroft Inn.
Officially the Roycroft Inn was founded around 1903; however, the existing building was vastly remodeled multiple times between 1903 and 1904 to become the perfect public face of the community and a physical representation of its ideals. As with the goods produced by the community, it was supposed to be a perfect marriage of beauty and comfort boasting fifty rooms each individually named for men and women Hubbard and his fellow Roycrofters deemed intellectually and artistically significant. Rooms were adorned with furniture, textiles, and metalwork made by the Roycrofters. Other elements of Roycroft design could be found in the painted landscape murals of Alex Jean Fournier and the stained glass of Dard Hunter. Both men were influential artists in the American Arts & Crafts Movement, spent significant time living and working in the Roycroft Community, and contributed to the aesthetics of the Inn.
The Roycrofters highlighted their communal enterprises beyond their luxurious and beautiful accommodations through their kitchen and its menu. The Inn claimed they could produce any meal from any other high end establishment from their supply of grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and chickens—all of which came directly from community gardens, dairies, and ranches. The food itself was so popular that the Inn eventually sold desserts by mail order.
It’s not surprising that the Inn, with its reputation and simple splendor became a destination for celebrities. The Inn's boasts famous guests such as Carl Sandburg, Booker T. Washington, and Henry Ford among others. Yet, the Inn was also a popular destination for honeymooners on their way to Niagara Falls, members of upper crust of society seeking a reprise from the city during a so called “rest-cure,” artists and intellectuals, and those that were drawn to Hubbard’s ideas, and the Roycroft Community; much as those who still visit the Inn today.