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Elfred Bartoo Bio

Elfred Hull Bartoo, architect of the Bundy house at 129 Main Street, was a prolific Binghamton architect during the end of the 19th century into the early part of the 20th. He designed buildings during Binghamton’s most prosperous time and it can be argued that through his residential designs he helped earn Binghamton the nickname “the Parlor City”.  He worked primarily in the Binghamton area, but worked on buildings outside of this area as well. Not only an architect, Elfred Bartoo was also an artist and was active in Binghamton’s Museum of Fine Arts with his wife Catherine Ruch Bartoo, a well-known local artist and art teacher. 

 Elfred was a native of BroomeCounty. He was born in Oxford, NY in 1866 to Jesse and Henrietta Bartoo. He attended high school in Greene, NY and graduated in 1885. Bartoo got his start in architecture the following year by training at the office of L.M. Brown.[i] He then worked at the office of Binghamton architect Allen B. Brown.[ii] The office was taken over by builder and self-taught architect Audley Reynolds in 1887, who had moved to Binghamton from Montrose, PA.[iii]  Elfred continued to work with Audley Reynolds until 1891. In that same year, Elfred was fortunate enough to work on the Capitol Building Project in Albany, under the direction of renowned architect Issac Perry.[iv] He assisted in draughting plans for the Capitol Building.[v]

By 1893 (the year the Bundy’s moved into 129 Main Street) Elfred’s listed profession in the Binghamton City Directory had changed from draughtsman to architect.[vi] He had formed a business partnership with Sanford O. Lacey, who had been Issac Perry’s Senior Draghtsman on the Capitol Building.[vii] This partnership lasted until 1896.[viii] After that partnership ended, he formed another partnership called Gardener& Bartoo with H. Sumner Gardner. This partnership lasted about 5 years.[ix] In 1899, Elfred and Catherine Bartoo were married in Binghamton.[x]

Bartoo worked as an architect for the Sage Foundation on the Forest Hills Queens Project from 1904-1907.[xi] During this time his wife Catherine was working as an artist in New York City.[xii] After the Forrest Hills project was completed the Bartoo’s spent a year in Europe travelling and drawing.[xiii] The Bartoo’s then spent some time living and working in Manhattan.[xiv] In 1915 Elfred drew up plans for the new First Presbyterian church in Johnson City (on the corner of Main and Floral). It is unclear whether or not he was back living in Binghamton at this time. The church however, had some problems associated with its construction. At the Cornerstone Laying Ceremony the temporary floor covering the basement collapsed, hurling 250 people into the basement 15 feet below.[xv] Elfred was not charged with any fault in the matter, instead the fault most likely fell with the builders. The Bartoo’s must have returned to the Binghamton area by June of 1916 because it was then that Elfred, along with Arthur T. Lacey and others, formed the Binghamton Society of Architects. Elfred was named as temporary secretary to the society.[xvi] From 1918-1920 Bartoo worked for Government Services at Camp Stewart in Norfolk, VA, as a Y.M.C.A. secretary.[xvii]

In 1921, Elfred, now back in Binghamton, drew up a proposal for the extension of Wall Street in Downtown Binghamton south of Court Street. The plan included a retaining wall along the Chenango River bank as well as other aesthetically pleasing improvements.[xviii] The plan unfortunately was never realized, though it does bear a resemblance to the present River Walk now occupying the site. During the same year he began a partnership with Edwin W. Dickerman which lasted at least until the late 1920’s.[xix] One of the larger buildings designed by this architectural team was the Daniel S. Dickinson School in Binghamton. Part of this building collapsed during its construction and it was blamed on faulty design. The architectural firm was almost dismissed and charged for the damage, but they were allowed to finish the project under supervision from another firm from New York City. Somehow the Bartoo & Dickerman survived this blow to their name and went on designing.[xx] The Bartoo & Dickerman firm was responsible for drawing up the plans for the Capitol Theatre in Binghamton, built in 1927 and known as one of the largest and most beautiful theatres of its time in Binghamton.[xxi]

Aside from his architecture, Elfred was known for being an artist and the curator of the Binghamton Museum of Fine Arts. The museum began as the Society of Fine Arts (also founded and attended by the Bartoos) and in 1913 Catherine brought the first travelling art exhibit to the Carnegie Broome County Public Library in Binghamton. Her hope was to eventually have a permanent space for exhibits. [xxii] The second floor of the Carnegie Broome County Public Library eventually became known as the Binghamton Museum of Fine Arts. Elfred Bartoo served as the museum’s curator from 1931 until his death in 1941. The museum and the Bartoos were credited for keeping the arts culture alive in Binghamton for many years.

 List of Bartoo’s accredited structures   — Provided by Keith Foote


[i] The Binghamton Press, Nov. 27, 1941

[ii] Keith Foote,Elfred H. Bartoo, 1866-1941, 1981

[iii] Keith Foote,Elfred H. Bartoo, 1866-1941, 1981

[iv] Keith Foote,Elfred H. Bartoo, 1866-1941, 1981

[v] The Binghamton Press, Nov. 27, 1941

[vi] The Anthony Publishing Co’s Standard City Directory of Binghamton 1893-1894, Williams’ Binghamton City Miscellaneous Directory 1893

[vii] The Anthony Publishing Co’s Standard City Directory of Binghamton 1893-1894, Williams’ Binghamton City Miscellaneous Directory 1893; & Keith Foote,Elfred H. Bartoo, 1866-1941, 1981

[viii] Keith Foote,Elfred H. Bartoo, 1866-1941, 1981

[ix] Keith Foote,Elfred H. Bartoo, 1866-1941, 1981

[x] Binghamton Press Dec., 13 1949

[xi] Keith Foote,Elfred H. Bartoo, 1866-1941, 1981; and Binghamton Press Nov 27 1941

[xii] 1910 US Census Data

[xiii] Binghamton Press Nov 27 1941

[xiv] 1910 US Census Data

[xv] The Poukeepsie Eagle-News, October 2 1916 Vol. 56

[xvi] Binghamton Press June 16, 1916 pg. 22

[xvii] Keith Foote,Elfred H. Bartoo, 1866-1941, 1981; The Binghamton Press, Dec. 18 1918; and Binghamton Press Nov 27 1941

[xviii] Binghamton Press and Leader, May 20 1921

[xix] Keith Foote,Elfred H. Bartoo, 1866-1941, 1981; and Binghamton Press Sept 20, 1927

[xx] various Binghamton Press articles from Jan – Nov 1924

[xxi] Binghamton Press September 20, 1927 pg 22

[xxii] The Binghamton Press, March 21, 1913 pg. 4


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