Binghamton (population 45,000) is located in the Susquehanna River valley, an area that was once part of the Iroquois Nation. After the fall of the Iroquois, 10,000 acres were granted to William Bingham, Esq. of Philadelphia. A new village was established in 1798, though Binghamton was not incorporated until 1834.
The construction of the Chenango Canal, which connected to the Erie Canal, in 1837, as well as the arrival of the Erie Railroad in 1848, helped the town to prosper. The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw Binghamton become a manufacturing center, producing cigars, clothing, furniture, and shoes. These manufacturing jobs attracted large numbers of immigrants, who came primarily from Italy, Germany, and Eastern Europe. The wealth created by the factories helped the area to become the artistic and cultural center for the region, filled with opera houses, theaters, and libraries. Binghamton soon became known as “The Parlor City” for its grand Victorian homes.
The city experienced a second boom during the Cold War, as local companies such as Link Aviation and IBM in nearby Endicott brought in government contracts. Recently, Binghamton has sought to reinvent itself both as a college town, with SUNY-Binghamton establishing a campus Downtown, and as an arts and recreation community.
In 2009, a massive rehabilitation project began on one of the most visible historic buildings in downtown Binghamton. The complex, now known as the Midtown Mall, was originally three separate buildings, but between 1920 and the 1970s they were combined to create a large commercial space, which operated as a mall until the 1990s. The City of Binghamton then assumed ownership, and a new developer is rehabilitating the space for mixed commercial and residential use. Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits were approved for a project to restore the structure’s historic façades, and the ongoing project is already attracting potential commercial tenants to the downtown area.
The city of Binghamton has strong citizen involvement in historic preservation, and one of the foremost groups in the area is the Preservation Association of the Southern Tier (PAST). PAST is involved in nearly every historic preservation project in the area and works to educate people about the area’s historic resources. Each year, PAST puts on a series of historic tours throughout the city, including the Historic Homes Tour and the Spirits of Binghamton’s Past Tour, a traditional ghost tour that takes place around Halloween.
Designated a Preserve America Community in July 2010.