What Happened to Endicott's Historic Bundy Building?
It was 1904 when Bundy introduced a new adding machine to his product line and it was an immediate success. An article entitled “Brains That Do Not Tire” in the national magazine World’s Work stated how “this wonderful machine lightens the labor of the office worker, makes for efficiency and accuracy and proves an enormous saver of time.” It goes on to claim that “so simple is the operation and so lacking in complication… that a child can manipulate the machine. It simply cannot go wrong.”
There was great demand for the product, sales steadily increased and quickly exceeded production capacity at the Binghamton facility. Bundy needed more space, more skilled workers, and he looked to Endicott.
Land was purchased with plans to initially construct two buildings next to the Erie Railroad – a power plant and a main factory that by design could be expanded as required. As reported during construction: “The manufactory, which is being erected for the manufacture of the Bundy Adding Machine, will give Endicott one of her most promising and attractive industries yet located there. It is confidently expected that within six months 100 expert workmen will be employed in the Endicott factory. With coat rooms, lavatories, together with an attractive exterior and grounds… the plant will be as pleasing to the eye as it is possible to make it.”
At the same time adjacent property to the east was purchased with plans for future expansion, which, unannounced at the time, was to become the new home of the rapidly growing International Time Recording Company.
In August 1905, Bundy was ready to start production in the newly completed plant. Twenty-five skilled workers were transferred from the Binghamton factory, although as reported at the time: “the union men have expressed some dissatisfaction because of the distance of the factory from the city, which has caused a report to be circulated that they would refuse to go to work in the morning.” The issue was quickly resolved by transporting employees from Binghamton via special trolley cars and the Erie train. But many more employees were needed and the call went out – “100 skilled workmen are wanted immediately.” It was stated that by the end of the year “over 300 men will be employed.”
That would prove to be a conservative estimate. Just eight months after the new Bundy Manufacturing plant opened, development of the adjacent property began. It was then that the master plan to relocate the International Time Recording Company was announced to the public. ITR, which was still operating in Binghamton’s Water Street building, would move to Endicott, right next to the new Bundy plant, where, as stated in the Press, “directors decide to erect two large factories and to concentrate business there. They will be on three acres of ground which the company owns east of the Bundy plant and along the Erie Railroad.”
Interestingly, the move almost didn’t happen. When the Endicott Land Company hesitated to live up to an agreement to provide housing for an influx of workers, Bundy threatened to abandon the plan entirely and find another location in Binghamton for the growing company.
The housing problem was resolved, construction resumed, ITR joined Bundy Manufacturing in Endicott and the rest is history.
In 1915 the Bundy building was taken over by ITR. Then, as the company grew and ultimately evolved into the multinational technology corporation known as IBM, the original building was gradually surrounded by an ever-expanding complex of concrete structures. Over a century has passed since the historic Bundy plant was built, and recent news reports indicate that the Village of Endicott is considering demolition of former IBM buildings at the corner of McKinley Avenue and North Street – the complex of buildings that includes the original structure.
In light of possible demolition, it is interesting to consider the fate of the first Binghamton Bundy building – that large brick structure on Water Street where time recorders and adding machines were first built. In fact, it is long gone. Today a deteriorating 4-story parking garage stands in its place. Amid weathered concrete, rusted I-beams and exposed rebar, there is a vision from the past – entitled “Punching In,” it is an image of employees standing in line at a Bundy time recorder, just one of a few murals painted on the garage walls showcasing the rich manufacturing heritage of this historic location. The artwork serves as a gentle reminder that this oil-stained spot, however unlikely it may seem, was the birthplace of IBM. It seems fitting and maybe a bit ironic that a modern time recording machine is located at the entrance to the garage, where drivers “punch-in” to receive a time-stamped parking ticket.
Binghamton’s role in the birth of “Big Blue” is significant. Unfortunately, the factory where those first machines were designed and built exists today only in a few faded photographs. On the other hand, Endicott’s role in the development of the company is legendary – and at least for now, the building where it all started is still there. Today, that historic structure, “as pleasing to the eye as is possible to make,” remains hidden from view, buried deep within a deserted, and now threatened, former IBM complex.