When it was constructed, Endicott Johnson’s “Victory” factory was meant to denote the triumph of World War 1, completed just after the end of the war in 1921.

I would imagine that, as the company took on the task of providing countless boots to the military in World War II, the name of the factory took on a different meaning. Helping beat back the fascism spreading darkness across the world must have been empowering to those workers, even if it was just making the boots.

The story from there is familiar to those who have lived here long enough. EJ left and the buildings stayed; the largest building on the Johnson City skyline left there to rot and become what the Press & Sun denoted “Broome County’s most visible eyesore”. 

From there, the building passed between different hands including ‘slumlord’ Isaac Anzaroot and a stint as car and boat storage before Paulus Development took it into its ownership. The huge white building is now well on its way to becoming a highlight of the skyline and a place for people to live in, much like was already done by the company at the former Ansco building. 

When I saw lights on in the building for the first time as I drove into town on Route 17, I was speechless. It is important to note that the lofts are set to be market rate rather than set out to be more affordable, which may come to the dismay of some community members given soaring rent prices nationally. Still, never in my life had I seen true activity in that place, but there it was, plainly for anyone driving by, a sign that there would be soon. 

What does the moniker “Victory” mean then, for those who grew up here after manufacturing moved far from downtown Johnson City?

For a 22 year old grown up in an Endwell that felt the effects and aftermath of a once-in-a-century flood, severe economic recession, then yet another once-(lol)-in-a-century flood, all in the shadow of the deindustrialization that began more than a decade before I was born – that building did not have a name, it was merely part of a landscape of blight. 

But I think now that the building’s name can be reframed to something else. Perhaps it can now be something more local than victory in one foreign war and the need to win another. 

Instead, the fight is at home. A war, if we choose to continue fighting it, against hopelessness and doubt, and to make our community better. Different from the better that it was in the past, but better all the same. Over the last few years, we have begun to make progress on this front.

A few years ago we started to see some of the EJ factories remade into apartments and buildings for Binghamton University, some even having explicitly affordable pricing. Broome County’s population numbers are starting to settle after years of decline. IBM’s historic location at the Huron Campus is now being used not just for BAE, but also for a new battery plant set to take shape there and make headways in the needed industry. Downtown has a young, thriving nightlife with new fun events popping up every few years. The Oakdale Mall is transforming into something completely different and exciting as “The Oakdale Commons.” The IBM country club is finally seeing movement towards something new as well. 

Things are being changed and remade all over.

A youth culture that has developed online and at locations like the Bundy Museum Annex is now proudly adopting 607 or Upstate identities for local music and other initiatives. It’s a breath of fresh air after hearing repeated diatribes of those looking to leave or saying that there was ‘nothing to do’ over the years. Seeing passionate activism like that of Binghamton Food Rescue and other new youth-driven groups has been invigorating as well.

So, that all being said, what is “Victory” for me and those that share my place in all this?

The renovation of the factory with that lofty name signals that the Greater Binghamton area is coming into itself again, in part due to the University’s growth, but that of course isn’t all of it.

The area is becoming a place more and more people want to live in and contribute to. Many have already felt benefits from efforts towards reviving the region by public officials, private groups, and motivated residents. 

The skyline now having this soon-to-be lived in place rather than a rotting former factory shows that blight and downturn has not defeated the area. At the same time, much like the building right now, victory is a work in progress instead of a done deal.

We are far from the era of Square Deal welfare capitalism that EJ represented. So too have we moved past the social democracy of the New Deal, and now seem to be moving past neoliberal globalization into what the information age and a revived focus on local authenticity might bring next.

There is a long way to go to affirm greater equity, availability of housing, opportunity, and hope to the residents of Broome and the Southern Tier. But the momentum has started, and it is in our hands to accelerate this rather than let friction grind us to a halt. If we keep going, maybe we can have a community full of “Victory” everywhere. 

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