Bundy museum explores local history

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In the hopes of discovering more about Binghamton’s history, I visited the Bundy Museum of History and Art, located on 129 Main Street on the Westside. The museum not only features the history of the Bundy family but also includes many multifaceted offerings such as the Rod Serling exhibit and Binghamton Photo, a community darkroom that offers photo developing services to the public.

The Bundy House was the residence of Harlow Bundy, the founder of Bundy Manufacturing Company that would later become IBM. The Victorian house features several rooms that give you a glimpse into the Bundys’ everyday life at the turn of the century, including the parlor room that would have been used for entertaining guests or the library where Harlow would have conducted his business possibly over cigars.

The house featured interestingly shaped rooms including the octagonal dining room and multiple curved glass windows located in the parlor and the room of Bundy’s daughters. Throughout the tour, our guide pointed out various details including the Bundys’ intention to appear wealthier than they actually were with handcrafted wood mantles and furniture from Sears.

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Upstairs we caught a glimpse of the master bedroom where Harlow and his wife Julia, would have slept as well as Julia’s dressing room which we learned was a very private space for a wife trying to get some distance from her husband and children to write in her diary or respond to letters.

On the third floor of the Bundy house was a photo gallery that is currently housing photographs by students from SUNY Broome and next month the Bundy museum plans to have photos from Binghamton University students.

Next, we visited the Annex and Carriage House which used to house the Bundys’ horses and carriages. In it we saw the Rod Serling archive filled with Twilight Zone memorabilia and televisions playing episodes from the acclaimed series. Also featured were the various time recording clocks manufactured in the Bundy company as well as a replica of the barbershop located by the old IBM that many workers would visit. 

Lastly, we stepped out of the Victorian age and back into the present to look at Binghamton Photo, the community darkroom space and photo lab. They allow anyone in the public to utilize their darkroom for $10 per hour or $20 for a whole day. The photo lab also gives discounts to students and seniors looking to purchase a year long membership.

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Overall, the museum takes a look at not only the history of the first house on Main Street with electricity, but also Broome County’s history while also incorporating more modern aspects of the area shown by the additional art galleries and local photo lab.

The Bundy Museum of History and Art is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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City gets in the Halloween spirit with PAST Binghamton tour

   

To get into the spirit of Halloween and all the spookiness it entails, I attended the Preservation Association of the Southern Tier’s (PAST) Spirits of Binghamton walk. Led by a tour guide dressed in early twentieth century attire, including a “Votes for Women” button, I got to walk around Downtown Binghamton and interact with the spirits of influential Binghamton natives.

Well, they weren’t quite spirits but volunteers who impersonated various figures including “The Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling, civil rights activist Ida Mae Taylor and three suffragettes that helped women gain the right to vote in New York.

Our first stop was the Binghamton Bus Station where Rod Serling appeared. With a cigarette in hand, Serling told the group about his time in Binghamton as well as the various influences the city had on specific episodes of “The Twilight Zone.” Much like the beginning of an episode of the popular 1960s show, his monologue left a chill with the group as we made our way to our second destination, the United Presbyterian Church on Chenango Street.

There we met Ida Mae Taylor, a civil rights activist who talked about her time in Binghamton and how her and her husband both fought for civil rights in the 1960s.

While walking throughout the Downtown area, the tour guide pointed out various buildings many of which had burned down more than once. We stopped at the scene of the deadly fire of the Binghamton Clothing Company that occurred in 1913, killing 31 of seamstresses that worked there.

 

There we saw the ghost of Nellie Connor, a woman who had worked for the factory for over 30 years. She spoke to us in the form of a poem, leaving an eerie vibe in the air as she spoke about her death and the death of several other girls.

Throughout the tour we met several other people, including Dr. Willis Sharpe Kilmer, one of the wealthiest men in Binghamton who helped build many establishments in the area.

We also happened upon three suffragettes on the steps of the courthouse, Margaret Topliff, Catherine Bartoo and Florence Chauncey. All three women spoke of their role in the suffragette movement in New York as well as the never ending dedication they showed until women obtained the right to vote in New York State in 1917.

Lastly, the group interacted with famous architect Isaac Pierce who built the Phelps Mansion and the New York State Inebriate Asylum that has now been abandoned for years.

The tour introduced me to Binghamton’s rich history that not only taught me more about the city but also satisfied my fix for spooky adventures this time of year.  

Otsiningo Park

This weekend I went to Otsiningo Park. The park, which is named after “one of the many 18th century Native American words for the lower Chenango River Valley,” is definitely a place to check out over the summer.

Otsiningo park is exactly what it sounds like; a public park. It offers picnic benches, running trails, and scenic views all year.  Along with the basic amenities, it also has grills, multiple sports fields that people can easily rent out, and picnic shelters that can hold up to 100 people.

When I went I mostly sat at a picnic table by the pond, to soak in the nice weather.  The park is definitely well-maintained and it’s certainly a place that I would recommend as a picnic venue.

In August, Otsiningo Park is also home to the Binghamton Spiedie Fest and Balloon Rally.  The festival, which is a three-day event, boasts over 40 hot air balloons, live music, and plenty of food.

Otsiningo Park is open from dawn to dusk year-round and is completely free!  For more information visit http://www.gobroomecounty.com/parks/otsiningo

Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park

Last week it was BEAUTIFUL out so my friend Brian and I went to the Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park.

Since it was the beginning of spring, the zoo was actually having its opening weekend, meaning there were lots of parents and children there.  The zoo, which was America’s 5th zoo (who doesn’t love fifth place??), has a huge range of animals, from tigers to penguins to livestock.

I’m always a huge fan of petting zoos, so I’m happy to say that the Binghamton Zoo has one.  I got to play with some baby goats, which is all I ever really dream of.

The penguins were cool to see (although it was 70º out, so I’m not sure how happy they were to see me) and although I’m generally freaked out by birds, there were a ton of pretty and exotic birds.  By “exotic” I mean any bird that isn’t a pigeon, since I’m from manhattan.  

I also got to see the Binghamton ZooMobile at an event on campus, which is the zoo’s mobile education program.  The ZooMobile brings a variety of animals (think roaches, chinchillas, and parrots) and a guide, who usually holds the animals tells students fun facts about them.

I’m always hesitant when it comes to zoos, since I have some issues with keeping wild animals in captivity, but the Binghamton Zoo seems to do a great job ensuring their animals are safe and well cared for.  I spoke to one of the ZooMobile facilitators and she seemed to be incredibly invested in her animals, showing me photos of some baby chinchillas on her phone.

The Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park is open from 10am-4pm until October 1st; the hours vary for fall and winter.  The easiest bus to take is the Broome County 3 Park Ave, and tickets are $7 for students.

For more information visit http://rossparkzoo.com

Old Barn Hollow Farm Market & Gluten Free Bakery

The Old Barn Hollow Farm Market & Gluten Free Bakery is brimming with local produce and baked goods year-round.

Old Barn Hollow, which sits on Binghamton’s State Street, is Binghamton’s only “locavore” store.  Everything they sell is from a local farm or is made by local artisans, meaning nothing is mass produced or imported.

When I visited Old Barn Hollow I was pleasantly surprised to see that though it was winter, there were still tons of options.  They have a lot of jams, sauces, and spreads that can be preserved year round, but they also have lots of frozen and refrigerated farm goods.  With coolers of artisan ravioli and freezers packed with meat and cheese, there was no shortage of local goods.  

I got LeRaysville cajun cheese curds and a slice of gluten free lemon loaf, while my friend Brian got a Red Jacket Orchards lemonade and a gluten free peanut butter cookie. Because I like to eat everything, I tried all four things, and I will definitely be going back over the summer.  

The woman who was ringing me up let me know that this is the least produce they ever have, since I went in March, so I plan on returning when they have the full farmers market running in the front of the store.  

Old Barn Hollow Farm Market & Gluten Free Bakery is at 214 State Street and is open Tuesday to Thursday from 12:00p – 6:00p, Friday from 10:00a – 6:00p, and Saturday from 10:00a – 4:00p.  More information can be found at http://www.oldbarnhollow.com/home.html

Phelps Mansion Museum


The Phelps Mansion Museum was built to be the biggest house on a street of mansions.

The brick and stone mansion, with it’s highest point surpassing 50 feet, still proudly sits on Binghamton’s Court street.

First built in 1870, the mansion was designed for Sherman Phelps by Isaac Perry, who was the architect behind many of New York state’s iconic buildings.  The Phelps mansion, in particular, is one of his most remarkable creations.  The building, which is now a museum, has been carefully curated and is filled with beautiful pieces.  

The first floor is adorned with huge chandeliers, which are complemented by the ornate original woodwork.  The decadence of the first floor is contrasted by the second floor, which is significantly less flashy (though still absurdly fancy), since guests would never go upstairs. Throughout both floors there are intricate hand-painted wallpapers and generous slabs of Italian marble, which cover the floor of the foyer and surround many of the fireplaces.

Much of the furniture in the house was bought after 1905 by the Monday Afternoon Club, a women’s civic organization that took over the mansion.  The things they brought were also stunning, enhancing the mansion’s intrinsic majesty.  In the parlor, there’s even a piano with opalescent mother of pearl keys.  

I was blown away by the Phelps mansion; if I wasn’t afraid of ghosts I would love to live there.  Aside from the amazing features, like the gigantic 10 foot mirror across from the grand staircase, the tour was fun and informative.

The mansion offers guided tours on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11am to 5pm.

The OCCT Leroy Southside bus (LRS) runs from campus to Court and Washington, which is about a block away from the museum.

More information can be found at http://phelpsmansion.org 

 

Broome County Regional Farmers Market

The Broome County Regional Farmers Market is a surprising taste of summer on Binghamton’s upper front street.

Hidden inside a massive barn, the farmers market offers a variety of delicious options, from seasonal produce to baked goods.

Wooden rafters adorned with strings of lightbulbs give the large space a warm feel, even in the dead of winter.  With over 30 different local vendors, the market is lively and welcoming, offering foods and drinks for every kind of consumer.

Homemade pestos, made by the owner of Whole in the Wall, sit alongside Peruvian alfajores, fresh from The Peruvian Bakery.  The huge array of options, and samples, allows shoppers to get a taste of the best sweet and savory foods that Binghamton has to offer.

While I was at the farmers market I had a pink lady apple, a honey caramel, and an incredible lemon tart.  I’m not even saying “incredible” lightly; this lemon tart was on a similar level to my mother’s lemon tarts, which is quite a statement.

Even in March, the most frigid and barren month, there was tons of fresh produce, including some sweet potatoes that were larger than my forearm.  I can only imagine how fantastic the market will be during summer, when fruits and vegetables are thriving.

The Broome County Regional Farmers Market is at 840 Front Street and is open year round on Saturdays from 9am-1pm.  From May to October, it’s also open on Tuesdays, from 4-7pm.

To learn more about the Broome County Regional Farmers Market, visit: http://www.bcregionalmkt.com