Your Hometown: What's in a name? How you really pronounce 'Roberson'
Since 1954, a Front Street Mansion has served as an educational tool in the telling of Binghamton's history. But as YNN's Chris Whalen tells us in this latest installment of Your Hometown, while most know the name the museum bears, it turns out, they may not really know it at all.
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BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- If you've ever lived in Binghamton, you're probably familiar with these people. Chances are you may have even visited their house a time or two. And if the legend is true, some may have even seen one of them wandering the halls of his former home...
And while you know their name, you might not really know their name.
"It's definitely been back and forth: ROB-erson or ROBE-erson," said Jason Fiume, Marketing Director for the Roberson Museum and Science Center.
And if you've ever wondered, you're not alone.
"I get that question ALL the time, and I love answering that question," said Terry McDonald, Executive Director of the Roberson Museum and Science Center.
Terry McDonald loves answering that question, because there is no easy answer.
It all starts with Alonzo...after all it was HIS name. A life-long Binghamton resident, who inherited his father's business, and it is the company's name that leads to the first pronunciation.
"Mr. Roberson, Alonzo Roberson, was actually the one who gained his wealth in the lumber industry, he had a lumber company here in Binghamton, it was called 'Roberson Lumber,'" McDonald said.
But it wasn't just his name, when he met Margaret Hays, a Binghamton school teacher in 1887, it became her name as well, and it continued to be her's some two decades years longer than her husband.
"Margaret outlived her husband by a good 20 years, and the legend has it that she liked the more French pronunciation of 'ROBE-erson,' rather than 'ROB-erson,' so that pronunciation had gained currency after Mister had passed away," McDonald said.
An easy solution would be to ask any surviving relatives of Alonzo and Margaret how they pronounce it.
"Mister and Misses did not have children, by their own right, so you have to understand that there are no children that could go on and carry out 'this is exactly how the name is pronounced,'" McDonald said.
However, at a recent gathering at the mansion, a long-distant relative came to visit and did have this to offer:
"He said 'you could say ROB-erson, but you'd be saying it wrong,' his name was Robert ROBE-erson," Fiume said.
But at the museum and science center that now bears the name, staff harkens back to the name of the original lumber business when pronouncing it, but has no problem with other accepted pronunciations.
"We definitely say, you can say whatever you want as long as you're here and talking about us, we're glad to have you and glad to be in conversation for sure," Fiume said.
Exactly as Alonzo and Margaret would have liked it.
The mansion was built in 1907 and cost roughly $107,000. You can visit any day of the week from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to learn more about the ROB-erson mansion.