By Vanessa Borden, Theresa Brown, John Minoia, and Richard Pak, Binghamton University
It’s easy to walk past the red, brick building located at 320 Water Street Binghamton, NY without much consideration of its historical relevance. What appears to be a relatively small, decrepit factory building was originally home to the National Cigar Box factory, was once home to the famous McIntosh Amplifier Company, and is currently home to a local creative custom picture framing business.
When the National Cigar Box Company occupied 320 Washington Street beginning in 1918, it was a brand new, one-story building. In the late 1920s the General Cigar Company came to Binghamton, NY and adopted the National Cigar Box Company as their supplier of cigar boxes (Figure 2). This increased demand for product provided the National Cigar Box Company with the funds to construct a two-story addition to the building. The General Cigar Company closed its Binghamton location in 1936 in response to the Great Depression. The loss of the General Cigar Company likely resulted in the loss of profit for the National Cigar Box Company as well. After the National Cigar Box Company left 320 Water Street, the McIntosh Factory eventually moved in, but there are a number of years that are unaccounted for after the National Cigar Box Company left and before McIntosh arrived. This gap in knowledge is the result of an inability of our researchers to obtain the abstract for the address.
The McIntosh Amplifier Company, founded in 1949, moved from its original location in Silver Spring, Maryland to its Binghamton location in 1951. The factory remained at its Water Street location until about 1956 when it relocated to its current location on Chambers Street in Binghamton, NY. Though the McIntosh factory only inhabited 320 Water Street for a mere five years, this is where the McIntosh Amplifier factory began achieving fame and created the technology that served as the base for the McIntosh technology that we know today. For example, during this time McIntosh amplifiers and preamplifiers were listed in electronics catalogs from which they could be ordered through the mail. Two of these catalogs were Allied Radio in Chicago, IL and Fort Orange Radio in Albany, NY. These catalogs allowed McIntosh to start making a name for itself and enabled the factory to prove its quality nationwide. This becomes evident when looking at the advertisements of McIntosh amplifiers from 1950-1953. During this time span, McIntosh Amplifier advertisements in Allied Catalogs transitioned from small sections titled “Custom Quality…Amplifiers” to larger sections titled “Top-Quality…Amplifiers”. Furthermore, the work that was accomplished by McIntosh at 320 Water Street led them to become the amplifier provider for Woodstock and for many musicians such as Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.
Once the McIntosh Factory moved to its most recent address at 2 Chambers Place, Binghamton, NY, Kuprian Manufacturing took its place at 320 Water Street. Following Kuprian Manufacturing came Emerson Network Power Surge Protection, Inc., formerly known as Control Concepts Corporation. This company was established as a consulting engineering company in 1971 and solved problems first locally with establishments such as the Corning Glass Corporation in the 1970s and now across the globe. They are currently known world-wide for having leading technologies in power protection, but still have their headquarters in Binghamton, NY.
After at least four changes in ownership, 320 Water Street now belongs to A Frame Shoppe, a creative custom picture framing business. This family owned company has been local to Binghamton, NY since 1989, but has only been at its current location since 2009. Now A Frame Shoppe is selling 320 Water Street, thus opening up its doors to yet another transformation in not only its ownership, but its soundscape. Through each and every change in ownership, there was a change in soundscape. The sounds created by the National Cigar Box Company were drastically different from those of the McIntosh Amplifier factory which were much different from the sounds of the more serene, current framing business. For the most part, the landscape of the building didn’t change, but the sounds produced by the workers and the machines most certainly did.
Press Play to hear and see our Aural Postcard of 320 Water Street:
Designers of the McIntosh Amplifiers Aural Postcard presenting their research (l-r): Theresa Brown, Vanessa Borden, Richard Pak, and John Minoia