Within yards of the Chenango River, where it joins the Susquehanna River in Binghamton, New York City, stands the Roberson’s Mansion. An impressive building that is built from red and white brick, surrounded by deep black wrought iron gates and fences. Six pillars, shaped in a semi-circle with five steps and a central handrail, welcome visitors through the front door of number 30 Front Street.
Alonzo and Margaret Roberson were the owners of this house that spans three floors, it comprises a total of 26 rooms and is home to 11 fireplaces. Alonzo, a carpenter, and Margaret, a school teacher, acquired the land in 1904 when Alonzo inherited his father’s lumber company. At the time of purchase, two other buildings were already built upon the land but they were not enough for the Roberson’s who desired a home that was bigger and better than any that had been seen before. Within months the buildings were demolished, leaving room for the Roberson Mansion to begin taking shape.
Hiring the Binghamton architect C. Edward Vosbury, an Italian Renaissance-style mansion was designed and created. Vosbury came with a resume that captured his organized and elegant designs which spanned many exemplary properties in Binghamton.
Completed in 1907 the house has an antique stairway in the center of the lobby. No expense was spared when choosing the best wood, the stained glass windows, and the compilation of modern technologies, from intercoms and elevators to a library that was filled with books.
Potter and Stymus were the firm that was chosen for the interior decoration of the house. Featuring silk damask and a different wood for each room, there was nothing but grandeur to please the Roberson’s expensive tastes.
The Roberson’s were known in the neighborhood for being exceptional at everything that they did. The locals described them as very generous people who looked after their workers very well. It was common knowledge that Alonzo Roberson provided accommodation within the servant’s wing for any staff who would take it. If the employees had other commitments then he would ensure that stable accommodation was available off the grounds. There was no doubting that they were known for their generosity.
The Roberson’s were not afforded children so had no one to leave their legacy to. As Alonzo was nearing his death with no heir to inherit his fortune, he conversed with other wealthy advisors to decide the fate of the house that they had worked so hard on and loved so much. Finally, it was decided that the mansion would become an education center for the community. Alonzo was pleased that this would honor his wife’s career in teaching.
While Alonzo passed away in 1934, his widow continued to reside at the Roberson mansion until she died in 1953.
At once, the personal belongings of the Roberson’s were sold at auction to release funding for what is now named the Roberson Museum and Science Centre.
The Ghost of Alonzo Roberson
It is alleged that the kind man who financed and built the extravagant mansion is a gentleman that continues to frequent it. In some ways, unable to let go of his legacy. Possibly ensuring that his life continues to be generous and helpful to others.
Since opening as a museum and science center to the public, many visitors have had to run from the house. Several have described being followed by Alonzo himself or hearing strange noises that could have been likened to throat clearing. This is something that Alonzo was known to do while still alive.
In 2019, another incident took place. While the mansion underwent some redecoration ready for a reopening, the decorator and his family were in the house, working hard, when they heard a man clearing his throat on the 2nd floor. These events did not deter visitors to the mansion however and a multitude of sightings have continued to be voiced.
Children have pointed at paintings of Alonzo on the wall after fits of laughter and told their parents that the man in the picture was walking with them, pulling funny faces.
Further visitors have described doors being shut behind them if they have been too loud. Others have seen Alonzo stood by his front door, watching the world go by. Not very long ever goes by without echoing in the halls or somebody seeing the man who could not bear to say goodbye.
Alonzo is not the only recorded ghost at the Roberson Mansion either. There have been some reports of a man wearing a West Point Uniform wandering the halls, a native American mother singing to her child. Even the play of children can be heard within the rooms.
Listed on the Register of Historic Places in 1980 the Roberson Mansion is not going anywhere. Maybe Alonzo will be staying too.
Photo by ConfluenceofRivers