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Roberson Mansion: The Man Behind the Money

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BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -

Roberson Mansion is a familiar landmark on Front Street in Binghamton, but who was the man behind the money?

Alonzo and Margaret Roberson were private people. Despite living in one of Binghamton's grandest homes, they rarely entertained. The third floor ballroom was only used a handful of times in the three decades they lived in the house.

"To have all this and to not show it off... It's mind boggling," says Laura Sacco, Public Programs Coordinator at the Roberson Museum and Science Center.

The son of a carpenter, who would make his money in lumber, hired Charles Edward Vosbury, the area's pre-eminent architect at the time, to design the dream home. It took three years to build and cost over $100,000. Today, the Roberson is valued at over $2 million.

Alonzo Roberson had no problem spending his fortune when it came to building his home. In fact, he was pretty extravagant. Five different types of wood were used for the elaborate, hand-carved woodwork throughout the home. The list includes Santo Domingo mahogany, butternut southern pecan, and tiger maple.

There's a lot of different woods that obviously showcase what he did.

The home was equipped with all the modern conveniences of the time: An elevator, electric light, and central heating. The original wrought iron elevator still runs in the home.

The Robersons never had children. A staff of 10 servants lived in a wing at the back of the mansion. 

"It was your full, every day staff," says Sacco, "Very 'Downton Abbey.'"

A life of wealth and comfort, but not one taken for granted.

"They were about giving back," says Sacco, "Even though they had this grander home, it wasn't so much about them."

While we may know them as philanthropists, at the time, their gifts to the community were made anonymously.

"It was all out of the spotlight," says Sacco.

With the exception of their final donation.

"When they passed away, it was in their will to have the home donated to the community as an educational center," says Sacco, "Which we still use it as such today."

Alonzo Roberson died in 1934. Margaret followed in 1953. The Roberson Mansion has been open to the public ever since.