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The Voice of the Saints

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History Spotlight: The IBM Country Club

Two centuries of stories and secrets
A vintage postcard of the IBM Country Club in its heyday. Christian Taber personal collection.

Grand and tragic. Icon and eyesore.

The historic rise and painful fall of the IBM Country Club follows a course similar to the first wave of industries that formed our Valley of Opportunity: companies rose, changed our landscape, and disappeared. In their times of prosperity, Endicott-Johnson Shoes and IBM introduced revolutionary employee benefits, not the least of which being the establishment of leisure spaces for all to enjoy. 

The IBM Country Club, started in the 1930s by company founder Thomas Watson, served as the recreational hub for Broome County’s thousands of IBM workers and their families for over half a century. However, the story of the Country Club doesn’t start there. As a matter of fact, it started well over a century prior. 

Ezekiel Crocker and his family settled in the newly formed town of Union in the late 1700s, and built a beautiful house on a prosperous farm from 1799 to 1800. From there, the two-story brick home served as a tavern and an inn, and was repaired after a fire ravaged the structure in 1857. In 1906, George Fowler, co-founder of the Fowler’s department store chain (whose Binghamton location is now occupied by Boscov’s), purchased the house. It was ultimately sold to IBM in 1931 to create a country club for its employees, similar to what Endicott-Johnson had done in 1927 with the creation of the En-Joie Golf Club. In 1936, an addition to the west and rear of the house introduced dining space, a bowling alley, and other recreational facilities. An 18-hole golf course designed by John Van Kleek was built behind the house in 1937, and a massive gym and pool complex was added to the east side of the clubhouse in 1951. 

A vintage color postcard featuring the Crocker House (left) and the 1951 West wing (right). Christian Taber personal collection.

By the late 1980s, IBM’s presence in Broome County was on a downward spiral, and with the Club being demoted on the company’s shifting priority list, the operation was outsourced to the Marriott Corporation. The Club was eventually broken off from IBM all together, became the public Heritage Country Club, and soon closed for good. While the clubhouse and surrounding recreation areas were shuttered, the golf course became part of the neighboring Traditions At The Glen Resort and continues to operate today. 

A glimmer of hope emerged for the dormant clubhouse when a group of investors formed Watson International and bought the building in 2006 with plans to turn it into a world-class event facility. Shortly after the deal, the 2006 Broome County Flood ravaged the area and caused significant damage to the clubhouse. The water damage, however, proved to be a minor loss compared to what came next. Upset over losses from the damage, one of the investors turned on the others, leaving several (including himself) dead in a tragic 2007 shooting in Philadelphia. 

As  a result, the clubhouse continued to sit vacant, and was once again ravaged by flood in 2011. Despite the heavy damage, the building still stood, and urban explorers began finding their way inside. Their videos, now populating YouTube, show the shocking decline over the years as a result of vandals and natural decay. By 2021, the IBM Country Club, site of generations of summer memories and celebrations, looked like it was hit by the apocalypse – boarded up, the rooms sat dark and cold as paint peeled from the walls, floors rotted, and graffiti consumed every surface. 

Several attempts were made to salvage the building, especially the over 220-year-old historic Crocker Homestead portion, but it was announced in 2022 that an apartment complex would replace the now-hazardous structure. Demolition began on November 8, 2022, with crews ripping into the western wing and the Crocker mansion. By November 15th, the Homestead was gone – reduced to a pile of bricks resting on the foundation. 

Fortunately, it was not the end of the road for those historic bricks. On November 17, the organizations working on the project hosted a Get-A-Brick Day, allowing Club patrons and history buffs to keep a piece of a bygone era. People arrived in droves, picking up their own piece of the Country Club and sharing fond memories. The rest of the structure was razed soon after. 

The IBM Country Club will go down in Broome County History as both beautiful and tragic. It’s a tapestry of memories from generations of Broome County residents, a symbol of family and community from a bygone era. However, on this quilt is also a lasting stain. Which side will bear the strongest legacy? That’s your call, but as you drive east down Watson Boulevard towards the Oakdale Commons, look to your left towards the Traditions golf course: the overgrown parking lot and nearby vacant plot of land were the site of a roller-coaster story spanning over 220 years.

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