Greater Binghamton has time machines.
As the “Carousel Capital of the World,” our collection of antique merry-go-rounds will surely transport you to yesteryear. Take a step – or spin, rather – back to a simpler time on six of Binghamton’s most unique features, which take residence in tri-city parks that are just as beautiful as these lovingly restored, wood-carved relics of recreation.
Take the time to travel the circuit Memorial through Labor Day. Did we mention all of these are free? They’ve actually been that way for more than 80 years thanks to legendary industrialist and philanthropist George F. Johnson of the Endicott Johnson Shoe Co. E-J as it was known established Binghamton and the “Triple Cities” (Endicott and Johnson City are the others) as an industrial powerhouse during the first half of the 20th century. It also set an incredible precedent for employee benefits, these morale-boosting carousels among them.
Also home to the city of Binghamton’s historic zoo, Ross Park has included a carousel since at least 1897. Johnson donated the fixture you’ll find there today in 1920.
You’ll hear the sounds of a Wurlitzer organ resonating throughout nearby Recreation Park, one of Binghamton’s most popular. Johnson donated this one in 1925 and it eventually became the inspiration behind an episode of the “Twilight Zone” courtesy of the show’s creator and television pioneer Rod Serling, another favorite son of Greater Binghamton.
Prepare to be awed and entertained by the largest and most ornate of the antique carousel collection in C. Fred Johnson Park of Johnson City (yes, the town was named for this legendary family). Installed in 1923, this carousel features 72 figures shaped by elaborate carvings, original scenic panels and beveled mirrors. The pagoda-style pavilion is two stories high with a handsome cupola. Wow.
George W. Johnson Park in Endicott includes a fully restored 1934 carousel. Renovated in 1994, it’s the pride and joy of the city’s Northside and Little Italy neighborhoods. This site sits in the middle of one of the best groupings of E-J Shoe Co. workers houses in the tri-city area, illustrating the strong intentions of the Johnsons to support a high quality of life near its factories.
As another reminder of the Johnson family’s philanthropic vision, the old E-J factories remain in sight at West Endicott Park and its carousel Installed in 1929.
Originally located in En-Joie Park, Highland Park in Endwell has hosted a mid-1920s-built carousel since 1967. The carousel includes your standard horses, but a pig and a dog as well, in case you want to mix it up.
Whether passing through or staying a while, lover of history or recreation enthusiast, you simply can’t leave Greater Binghamton without some downtime on these one-of-a-kind timeless structures.
And, by the way, history buffs don’t have to stop with these state- and national-registered historic places. Take a stroll on any downtown street and you’ll be in old-school architecture heaven thanks to the great manufacturers like E-J and IBM, which created economic prosperity and opulence for much of the 20th century.