Arts & Craft Roycroft Inn Desk, ca. 1907
Because of my job I was transferred around, and I wound up going from western New York to San Francisco, back to Cleveland, and then to Denver.
And this came all the way through all those different legs of the journey?
Yes, it did.
It started originally in East Aurora, New York, and you have family associated with East Aurora, New York.
Yes, when I was younger, before I was a teenager, we lived about two blocks away from the Roycroft Inn in East Aurora, New York. My father knew the owner of the Roycroft Inn during the '50s, a gentleman by the name of Louis Fuchs, and he gave this to my father.
This is very much a piece of American Arts and Crafts movement history. From the wood that it's made of, which is quartersawn oak, to the use of copper for the hardware, these are all elements of New York State Arts and Crafts and American Arts and Crafts. The Mackmurdo feet, these little knobbed feet, are the English influences. Elbert Hubbard, who started the Roycrofters and the Roycroft Inn, was influenced deeply by the European masters. What I like about this piece is it's kind of... it's a weird piece of Arts and Crafts. It's very boxy, a little ungainly, it's a lift-top desk with four little cubbies. It's about 1905 to 1910. Initially Roycroft didn't make furniture for retail. They made it for their own purposes. But then they moved into full furniture production once they saw how successful they could become at making furniture. Of all the New York furnituremakers, they had the smallest production of pieces, because they weren't really a furniture company. Hubbard started the Roycrofters as a book printing press, and then this whole thing grew up around that. He was a very good businessman. He developed the premium technique of marketing for the Larkin Soap Company. So when you buy a box of soap and there's a dish in it, he invented that idea of marketing soap, made a fortune, cashed his chips, left Buffalo, moved to the suburb of East Aurora and started the Roycrofters. He then moved to build this inn, and he had to put furniture in the inn, so he started making furniture and hardware. And this is one of those pieces. We know it's early several ways. Number one, the fact that "Roycroft" is spelled out across the front. The sort of gawky, ungainly lines of the piece is also typical of early Roycroft furniture. The hardware, it's early hardware with sheet-cut copper. It's not hand-wrought. It's not very good hardware, which in the context of this piece is a very good thing. The piece of furniture is very well made. Hand-cut dovetail joints on the side of the cubbies. If we look at the top of each of the cubbies, you could see where the pins are. It's all doweled and put in place without screws, with the exception of the mounting of the hardware. But the main thing I want to talk about here is the fact that on the back of this front leg is an impressed mark. It's an R prefix, which means it's from the Roycroft Inn. I'm sure with an R prefix it comes from a specific one of the hotel rooms. So we know exactly where this piece came from. In terms of value, the thing that holds this back is the fact that it's got a very thick overcoat. If you look in the front here, you can see the original finish. The original finish is under this thick, glossy coat, and that compromises it. So if this were to appear at auction today, I would guess somewhere between $4,000 and $6,000 from the Roycroft Inn.
With the original finish, without that overcoat, it would probably be more like $6,000 to $9,000 or $7,000 to $10,000, not a huge difference, because it's an important piece in and of itself.
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