For those interested in the Arts and Crafts movement, the best time to
visit East Aurora is the month of June, when conferences take place. Call the Greater East Aurora Chamber of Commerce (1-800-441-2881) for a schedule of events. But for lovers of small-town America, almost anytime in spring, summer, or fall would make a good time to visit (it gets cold here in winter). You might want to get a calendar of events to ensure that you miss them all—the toy fairs and car shows are fine in their way, but they alter the small-town feel of the place.
Millard Fillmore’s house is open from two to four on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. It’s a modest, two-story affair, moved from Main Street to 24 Shearer Avenue to make room for the East Aurora Theater. I found the place interesting chiefly for the dedication of its guides, all of whom tried valiantly to engage visitors in history-oriented conversation.
Vidler’s 5 & 10, on Main Street, in business since 1930, sells everything you’d expect—penny candy, toys, housewares, crafts, candles, yarn—and a few things you wouldn’t, like maple syrup and bag balm, a product local quilters use to soften rough skin. “We carry a lot of little things that people can’t get anymore,” Beverly Vidler told me. “Like if you wanted to buy just one cork.”
Toytown Museum exhibits toys made between 1930 and 1970 as well as a full run of Barbie dolls. Classic-toy lovers accompanied by children will be torn between visiting the museum and keeping their offspring away from the seductive modern-toy store on the premises.
A number of Victorian houses, operate as bed-and-breakfasts, j including Green Glen (716-655-2828) and Shepherd Hill Farm (716-652-4425). One of these or the Roycroft Inn would make a good base for visiting other architectural sites in western New York. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House is in Buffalo, a half-hour’s drive away, and Chautauqua, the headquarters of the nineteenth-century self-improvement movement, is fifty miles southwest of town. Elbert Hubbard met Alice at a meeting of the East Aurora chapter of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, and the Roycroft and Chautauqua drew inspiration from each other.
Head, Heart, and Hand , by Marie Via and Marjorie B. Searl, published to accompany a recent exhibition of Roycroft wares, offers a good overview of Hubbard and his enterprise. As Bees in Honey Drown , by Charles F. Hamilton, tells the story of his romance with Alice. Either would make a pleasant companion on a little journey to the home of Elbert Hubbard.