Paterson’s Great Falls: A National Historical Park

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Cotton and silk for clothing; locomotives for travel; paper for books & writing letters; airplanes and more. What do they have in common? They all came from the same place—Paterson, NJ.

In 1791, Paterson, America’s first planned industrial city, was established, centered around the Great Falls of the Passaic River. From humble mills would rise industries that changed the face of the United States.

The Great Falls of the Passaic River is the second largest waterfall by volume, east of the Mississippi River and next to Niagara Falls. It is centered in an industrial historic district, considered to be “The Cradle of American Industry.”

In 1976, the 119-acre park was designated as a National Historical Landmark District and has since been designated as a new National Historical Park (NHP).

As New Jersey’s newest national park, the Paterson district joins Morristown National Historic Park, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (NRA) and the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway NRA as a highly desirable tourism destination.

Paterson’s roots reach deep into the historic growth of America. Long before the Colonies united and declared their independence, travelers and visitors flocked to Acquackonounk, the homeland of the Lenni Lenape Indians to view the breathtaking beauty of the falls.

But it was not until the emerging nation charted its course of independence that the power potential of these roaring falls was realized.
Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, was convinced that industry would add wealth, independence and security to the blossoming nation.

Hamilton chose the site of the Great Falls to propel his brainchild, a “national manufactory,” America’s first planned industrial city. Some of Paterson’s industrial firsts included, water-powered cotton spinning mill (1793), continuous roll paper (1812), Colt revolver (1837), the Roger’s Locomotive (1837) and the Holland Submarine (1878).