IBM Locates in the Hudson Valley
At the beginning of World War II, Thomas Watson, Sr., IBM’s chairman, offered President Franklin Roosevelt IBM facilities for manufacturing armaments. This resulted in the establishment, in 1941, of the Munitions Manufacturing Company in Poughkeepsie. Soon IBM added other buildings nearby and then created a network of laboratories. Research in these laboratories would lead directly to IBM’s decision to expand operations northward across the Hudson River to Kingston.
At the dedication of the Kingston plant in November 1956, IBM President Thomas Watson, Jr. explained that family friend Fred Eisler, owner of Kingston’s Stuyvesant Hotel, “kept barraging Dad with letters about what a fine place this would be for a plant...And at long last, we came over and looked at it, and it was close to Poughkeepsie, and at that time we thought we would make typewriters here.”
Others believe that IBM’s move was the result of an effort by corporations in the 1950s to flee big cities. Fortune magazine noted in 1952 that “everyone can work better and think better in the country." This was also the era of the Cold War and IBM had just taken on the SAGE program, the heart of the U. S. Air Force’s air warning network. Moving to the outskirts of Kingston helped keep IBM’s operations safe from possible nuclear attack, as enemies were thought to be targeting major urban centers.
Kingston also had great transportation advantages. The Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge was begun in 1954 and completed in 1957. The Ulster County section of the New York State Thruway was completed in 1954–55 and the final segment from Yonkers to the Bronx in summer 1956.