Visiting Binghampton in NY USA With a Small Dog
One of the things that make road-trips fun are the stops you make along the way. Being in the car and seeing nothing but highway isn’t my idea of a good time, but I can manage it for a while if I know that we will stop to explore and discover new sites. This is why we dig out a map before we go and play the 100-mile-game as mentioned in our previous post. What is there to see every hundred miles along our route?
This is how, on our long drive from Ottawa to Brigantine, we discovered the town of Binghamton in the State of New York, near the Pennsylvania border.
As we rolled off the Interstate, we were surprised to find a small city with a lot of charm. All we had known about Binghamton was that it is connected to Ottawa through, of all things, hockey! I don’t follow the sport (I am, too, Canadian! Not every Canadian follows hockey!), but I still found it worthwhile to check out the hockey connection between my hometown and Binghamton.
I learned that professional hockey arrived in Binghamton in 1973 (the same year my Mom was born … shh) with the founding of the Broome Dusters of the North American Hockey League. The history gets a bit muddled after that with changes in names and owners, but what matters is that now, the team is called the Binghamton Senators and they serve as the AHL affiliate of the Ottawa Senators. The B-Sens have sent stars such as Jason Spezza, Robin Lehner, Chris Kelly, Jakob Silfverberg and Jean-Gabriel Pageau to the NHL.
Aside from learning about Binghamton’s hockey, I learned about the founding of the city. Binghamton was named after William Bingham, a wealthy Philadelphian who bought 10,000 acres of land in 1786. With the golden age of the railroad, Bingham’s 10,000 acres became a town: a transportation crossroads and a manufacturing center for cigars, shoes, and, much later on, computers. In fact, IBM was founded not too far away and the flight simulator was invented right there in the city!
Binghamton was known for a long time as “The Valley of Opportunity.” Sadly, though, when the end of the cold war brought cuts to defense firms, the region lost its manufacturing industry and Binghamton began to fade. There is still a continued concentration of high-tech firms in the area, but Binghamton’s future is now built on healthcare and education.
Building on healthcare is an extension of Binghamton’s past. The New York State Inebriate Asylum, opened in Binghamton in 1858, was the first center in the United States to treat alcoholism as a disease. The Asylum was way ahead of its time! The locals are hoping that Binghamton University will join healthcare as a driving force behind sustainable revitalization.
That’s a lot of history and we only had an hour or two to check out the city! We decided to focus our attention and chose the beautiful Court Street Historic District for our sightseeing venture.
The Historic District includes a whopping 87 historical buildings and encompasses the core of historic downtown Binghamton. The majority of the beautiful commercial buildings in the District were built between 1840 and 1939. Ten- and twelve-story office buildings built in the 20th century are also prominent features of the District, along with the Broome County Courthouse and the Binghamton City Hall.
As it should happen, there was a little festival or street party going on when we visited. I think they called it July Fest. I can’t believe how often we stumble upon events like this!
So, we took advantage of our luck and joined in the festivities. We walked up and down the street, which had been closed to pedestrians only, and chatted with vendors and met locals. It felt great to get out of the car and stretch our legs. It was all the more fun because the sun was shining and people were happy. On a small stage, a lady was singing some great blues, adding to the festive air around us.
On a small side street – one that appeared to be a pedestrian street at all times – we discovered Sip of Seattle, a little espresso bar. The timing could not have been better: Dad was running low and was in need of topping up his … umm … caffeine addiction. And Mom was getting hot and was in the mood for a treat. Dad ordered his usual double long espresso and Mom … well…
Behind the espresso bar is a gift shop. The owner has the cutest little Pomeranian, Chloe. She and I were immediate friends and her biped was a source of information for Mom. Chloe’s biped told Mom about an item that is not on the Sip of Seattle’s menu: the Turtle Ice Latte! That is what Mom ordered, requesting almond milk instead of regular milk, and by the look on her face, it was absolutely worth it and hit the spot.
The best part? Sip of Seattle is pet friendly, and you can also grab a bite to eat there. So Binghamton gets an extra star for having a pet friendly place to eat!
For a little fun entertainment, on the same little street as the espresso bar is a Walk of Stars. It’s falling apart and in need of TLC but still a fun spot. We only knew two of the people named on the stars (Richard Deacon and Rod Serling), but it was cool to see the city honouring their own celebrities.
Our only regret was not having more time to spend in the city, and not having planned more carefully how to use our time there. We had to get back on the road and so missed out of some things we had really hoped to see. On our list for our next visit:
The Recreational Park Carousel – While there, you can enjoy the swings, slides, and more that make up Recreation Park. Broome County is very fortunate to have five carousels. You can do the complete circuit in a day, and they are all free!
The Roberson Museum and Mansion – The museum offers a great way to learn about the area’s history, including the history of the Indian Nations. The mansion, I am told, is gorgeous with fine woodwork, a palatial staircase, beautiful pieces of furniture, and plenty of artwork. The Fine Arts section includes several Salvador Dali’s and even a Picasso.
Cutler Botanic Garden – This is a small, peaceful oasis of blossoms, trees, grass and gardens. There is no cost to stroll through the garden, and you can see everything from roses to pumpkins growing.
Phelps Mansion – You are in for a woodworking treat when visiting this mansion. The doors, fireplaces, and staircase have stood the test of time well. The family story is unique and sad, resulting in a change of ownership and changes to the mansion, but the basics of the original design are there.
Bundy Museum of History and Art – This is a lovingly restored 1892 Queen Anne home with striking architecture, stained glass windows, and beautiful woodwork. The museum offers an opportunity to learn about the Bundy clocks as the precursor of IBM. The museum also broadcasts its own radio station and shows movies from local producers in the home’s old carriage house. (The movies are usually on Thursday nights, but it’s best to call for the schedule.)
As you can see, Dear Reader, we are not done with Binghamton! I have no idea if any of these places are pet friendly, but trust me, when we return, we will find out!
In Review: Binghamton was listed on the American National Register of Historic Places in 1984. It is a gem if you like American history and historical architecture. It’s a city with a glorious past, and trying to hold on to it. It may not be what it once was, but it is a fun place to take a break, to have a bite to eat, and more. With some pet friendly options, a picturesque historical downtown core, and friendly people, I would recommend this small city to anyone passing through or just needing a new place to spend a few days.