Behind the bid: Bright future, rich history

By Erika Mahoney

May 20, 2014 Updated May 20, 2014 at 7:37 PM EDT

Town of Union, NY (WBNG Binghamton) It's certainly a busy time for project managers at Traditions and Tioga Downs, as both Southern Tier businesses strive to secure what could be a single casino gaming license.

Long before a casino was ever considered, what's now Traditions at the Glen, was a home.

"Yes, this is a very historic spot," Traditions' history consultant Karen Carpenter said. "The story really starts with a gentleman by the name of Eliot Spalding."

Spalding was the treasurer of the Endicott Johnson Shoe Company. In 1919, he built a mansion for his wife and daughter. A few years later, the Spaldings moved and the Kalurah Shrine used it as a clubhouse.

In 1935, IBM bought it at a tax sale. The company already owned an adjacent property, what was then known as the Old Crocker Farm, and the IBM Clubhouse. The company called the new purchase clubhouse No. 2.

"Both Mr. and Mrs. Watson believed that the employees benefited greatly from recreational experience, from fitness, and having the ability to have a social environment."

As the company grew, IBM's chairman realized they needed a place to host customers and guests.

Clubhouse No. 2 was reinvented as a hotel, gaining the nickname "The Homestead." Staying there became a reward for IBM's sales staff who met their goals. It was called the "Hundred Percent Club."

But so many people met their goals, there wasn't enough space in the hotel.

"We have a picture in our lobby, there's 30,000 people on the golf course," Walsh said.

So the company got creative.

"Behind the mansion there would be about 300 tents," Carpenter said, and throughout the grounds, signs with IBM's "Think" slogan reminded people to strive for new, great ideas.

Guests -- including President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bing Crosby, Ben Hogan -- who came to enjoy the resort, had full access to a championship golf course, pools, horseback riding, bowling alleys, a huge library, five-star kitchen and more.

"As everything happens, change came to IBM," Carpenter said.

The Homestead turned into a place for training. But by 1995, the doors to the mansion closed. It would be 10 years before the Walshes reopened it as Traditions, and the resort just celebrated their 10th anniversary.

"We bought the property in 2004 ... and to tell you the truth, we bought it for the development potential," said Traditions owner Bill Walsh. "We knew it was a gem here in the community."

The hotel had 18 guest rooms, which the Walshes have expanded to 41.

"Through the years we have added a state-of-the-art spa, the Salt Sanctuary, and we have an 18 hole golf course," said Traditions General Manager Candace Jones.

Known for weddings, events and golf tournaments, Traditions could soon be known for its casino, music venue and even larger hotel.

"We believe this is going to be the next step to create opportunity for people and hopefully revitalize Broome County as we know it today."

Project leaders plan to maintain the historical feel of the property, but change history.

"As we know, this has become a bit of a depressed area," Jones said. "This whole thing of 'Think Big, Think Really Big,' of course it comes from Watson's 'Think.' This would bring so much to this area."

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