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The Bundy Museum: a Window into Binghamton's Rich History

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BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -

Take a trip back in time as Fox 40 gives you a further look into some of the Southern Tier's most historic sites each month this year. In January, we sat down with Janna Rudler, director of development for the Bundy Museum of History and Art, who shared its history.

Built in 1892, the Bundy Museum is named after Harlow E. Bundy who moved from Oneonta to Binghamton in 1889 with hopes of gaining business wealth.

"He was the founder of the company that later became IBM.  His company started in 1889, in downtown Binghamton, the Bundy Manufacturing Company.  And they made time recording clocks," said Rudler.

Click here to see a timeline of the Bundy Manufacturing Company.

Harlow had convinced his older brother Willard, who invented the device, to manufacture and sell it to business owners. Rudler said the early years were rough as they competed with others making time recording clocks.

While the brothers worked on making their company successful, it was Harlow's wife Julia who used money from her own family’s wealth to work on building her dream home.   

"She paid to have this house built; $64,000, which in 1892 is equivalent to about $1.6 million today," said Rudler.

The equivalent of about $1.6 million today was spent decorating this Queen Anne Victorian style home to high standards.    

"The architectural details of the house really show the taste of people at the time. Especially what Julia had in mind when she was building her ideal household. The carved woodwork in the house is original.  A lot of it was carved on-site by a carpenter at the time," said Rudler.   

Harlow and Julia raised their three children in this elaborate home for 13 years.  Harlow moved his family to Endicott in 1905 to be closer to his new factory.

Later on, uses of their former house would include a home for other families and eventually a place of business.  In the 1960s, Rudler said, Dwayne and Dorothy Hall started the Fairview Press at the site.  She said they also rented out parts of the house to Catholic Charities and other organizations to use as offices.  But aside from a few alterations, such as new roofing and a part of the butler's pantry being turned into a closet, Rudler said even as a commercial building the structure of the house was relatively unchanged.

Since the museum opened in 2004, with the founder buying from the Halls, Rudler said people have donated items to have some of their own family treasures preserved -- putting more pieces of the area's past on display.

"We found a demand for some of Binghamton's lost history, so to speak, some things that are a little lesser known about Binghamton," said Rudler.

The museum has grown to include a Rod Serling Archive and the Southern Tier Broadcasters Hall of Fame in its annex out back.  It also includes a display of those time recording devices that first brought Harlow and his family to the Binghamton area.

As for Harlow Bundy, he retired to California in 1915 before passing away on March 21, 1916.   

"Harlow didn't live to see the name International Business Machine," said Rudler.

While he may have passed away over a century ago, visitors of the Bundy Museum continue to learn more about the name behind this historical site every day.

Want to learn more yourself, including why Willard Bundy eventually stopped working with his brother and how exactly the Bundy Manufacturing company became a forerunner of IBM?  Tours are given Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the 129 Main St. location.

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