The Roycroft Stable
An Elusive History
The Roycroft Campus of East Aurora, New York, is home to beautiful buildings, sublime artwork, and iconic furniture. Finding the inn, the print shop, or the copper shop requires little effort. But the stable, which is now home to the Roycroft Inn and Campus’ laundry, is more difficult to locate—in fact, images of the stable, other than on maps, are elusive. Far less iconic or aesthetically pleasing than the other notable shops and buildings on the Roycroft Campus, the stable is a starting point to discovering a different kind of history--one that has little to do with the usual stories of architecture, art, or furniture. The stable, instead, points to a history of power and symbolism on the Roycroft Campus.
The stable, originally built in 1905, stood as a symbolic seat of power that communicated the hierarchy of the Arts and Crafts community. In an illustration from one of Roycroft’s maps, the stable has a dark roof and a rustic, Bavarian architectural style, and is situated behind the Roycroft Inn and its adjoining guest house. Rather than serving the entire community, it housed the horses of founder Elbert Hubbard and his family, whose passion for riding was and is still well known. In a collection of musings entitled “A Social and Industrial Experiment,” Hubbard wrote, “Horses have been my only extravagance, and I ride horseback daily now.” In fact, his love of horses is so connected with the history of Roycroft that a photograph of Elbert atop his favorite mare, Garnet, is featured in a Roycroft Shop postcard. In another photo, Hubbard is photographed with Garnet and her foal, Asbestos, shortly before Hubbard's death.
When famous visitors like Susan B. Anthony, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison came to stay in the Roycroft guest house—connected to the Roycroft Inn—they likely would have noticed the horse stable nestled behind their lodgings. Which begs the question: Why would a stable be placed there? Combined with Hubbard’s privilege in horse ownership and riding, it is likely that the stable was placed in such a conspicuous position—though removed from the street—in order to communicate his high status.
Other amenities were built up around Hubbard’s love of horse riding. For instance, one Ali Baba, otherwise known as Anson Blackman, was employed as horse trainer, as well as a valet and handyman. Hubbard later said of Baba that he “worked at everything and gave advice to everybody, enlivening the tedium by many a jest bucolic.”
Later, the stable was converted into a laundry facility and staff quarters, and the horses were kept in Emerson Hall’s barn. But its story, and the curious lives that horse and human lived at Roycroft, still live on.