Road Trip: East Aurora, N.Y.
By Catherine Artman
Published: Saturday, October 13, 2012, 8:59 p.m.
Updated: Saturday, October 13, 2012
Cobblestone streets and 1900s-style streetlamps lend a lost-in-time feel to East Aurora, a village in Buffalo's southeastern suburbs. The community of 6,200 shows its appreciation for its history in many ways. Visitors can tour the boyhood home of President Millard Fillmore; catch a flick at a movie theater that first opened in 1925; or dine at Tony Rome's, situated in a building that dates to the early 1800s; or at Riley Street Station, a gastropub in an attractive former train station.
Most inescapably, however, is the village's role as home to the Roycroft Campus. At the turn of the 20th century, artisans lived and worked in the Roycroft collective, which was founded by Elbert Hubbard in 1897. Their work played a strong role in the Arts and Crafts Movement in America.
Among the early Roycrofters was Dard Hunter, who designed type now called the Roycroft font or the Arts & Crafts font. Hunter's Viennese-style lettering turns up everywhere in the village, such as on signs for the Aurora theater and the Chamber of Commerce. As one recent visitor put it, “It's as though the whole place uses a secret code.”
Details: Chamber of Commerce, www.eanycc.com, 716-652-8444
Catherine Artman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7881 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guided walking tours of the campus, which consists of original structures as well as reconstructed buildings, will be given on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays through the end of this month. Details: www.roycroftcampuscorporation.com, 716-655-0261
Even if there's no time for a tour, stop by the Roycroft Inn, built in 1905 and restored and reopened in 1995. The restaurant offers fine dining in a beautiful setting of wooden beams, original Alexis Fournier murals, and stained-glass windows and hanging lanterns designed by Dard Hunter. Guest suites are available for overnight accommodations; room rates start at $165. Details: roycroftinn.com, 716-655-5552
Although the original Roycroft institute closed in 1938, the mission of the Roycrofters continues. The Roycrofters At Large is an association of juried artisans who create handcrafted work and employ the skills of Hubbard's era. Some of their pieces can be purchased at the large gift shop on the Roycroft Campus.
Association members will be demonstrating their skills at the community-wide Well-Crafted Weekend, this Thursday through Oct. 21. Many events and activities, such as gallery walks and wine-tastings, are scheduled. Among the planned tours is a visit to the headquarters of the toy company Fisher-Price. Christine Peters, executive director of the Roycroft Campus Corp., says it's not too late to join in the fun. For a calendar, go to www.roycroftcampuscorporation.com/wcw.htm
For holiday shoppers, the Roycrofters At Large Association holiday show, featuring crafts in many media, will be Dec. 1 and 2. Details: www.ralaweb.com
Mason Winfield walks the streets of East Aurora at night. But he's not alone — especially not in October. As he paces along the sidewalks, he's followed by an assortment of silent, watchful creatures, many of whom are grasping to-go cups. Winfield waves his arms. He contorts his face. He lowers his voice to a growl, then shouts. But still the motley hordes trail after him, because they are on a ghost walk and he is doing his best to scare them silly.
Winfield and his assortment of fellow tour leaders are a common sight in East Aurora on summer and autumn nights. His organization, Haunted History Ghost Walks, is offering several ghost walks and “Haunted Pub Crawls” in the village this month.
A recent pub crawl started in the bar of Tony Rome's Globe Hotel & Restaurant and proceeded down a side street to the Hampton Inn, then past a cemetery and to the Elm Street Bakery. There, we were served hors d'oeuvres, bought some pastries, and could get another beer to carry out — yes, it's legal in the village. Our troupe trekked on to two more pubs as Winfield, an animated storyteller, regaled us with history lessons laced with tales of tragedy. Pub crawls, he explained, aren't really ghost tours — but just to spook us, he left us with a haunting story of a death foretold.
While taking a “Haunted Pub Crawl,” some of us lagged behind, lingering in front of apparel shops to admire the goods within. Many storefronts enticed, and one shoe store — Head Over Heels — grabbed the attention of even the men in our group. Its window display is a bewildering, amusing jungle of lights, silk and paper flowers, beach balls and more lights.
The next day, however, allowed time for just one store: Vidler's. It's not often that the only store you make time for is a five-and-dime, but Vidler's is an exception. The red-and-white awnings on its white storefronts are a cheery sight along Main Street, and you can't help but look up to the giant statue of longtime owner Ed Vidler atop the roofline. (Vidler on the roof, get it?)
The variety store was founded in 1930, according to its website, and expanded over time. It now fills four 19th-century buildings. When in the store, it's not always easy to maneuver. It's packed with merchandise, and was so busy with shoppers that we had to wait our turn to descend the stairs to the lower level.
Each building houses different departments, grouping items such as kitchenware, gardening gear and clothing. A particular favorite retains the look of five-and-dimes from yesteryear. It has wooden floors, and toys, little books and metal lunch boxes fill the shelves that line the walls. They aren't the same trinkets we yearned to take home from mom-and-pop stores 50 years ago, but they elicit smiles of recognition. It might be a five-and-dime, but the nostalgia that Vidler's evokes is priceless.
Details: www.vidlers5and10.com, 716-652-0481
Head northwest out of East Aurora on either Seneca Street or Route 400, and in a matter of minutes you'll be in West Seneca, where, until Thanksgiving, you can visit Mayer Bros. Cider Mill. Look for the big red building at the corner of Transit and Seneca Creek roads.
Because the cider press has been moved to another building, visitors no longer can watch it in action. But the store still is a seasonal treat. The aromas of apples and freshly made doughnuts fill the air. Guests can sample and purchase cider, and the doughnuts and apple pies are baked on the premises. Jellies and maple syrup are available, and Mayer Bros. — founded 160 years ago and still family-owned and -operated — makes an entire line of natural juices.
Details: www.mayerbrothers.com/store.asp, 716-668-5260
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