Paterson is located about 15 miles to the northwest of New York City. It is the third largest city in New Jersey, and the seat of Passaic County.
Garret Mountain overlooks downtown Paterson from the south, and the Passaic River separates the city from its neighbors to the east, north and west.
On the edge of downtown Paterson are the Great Falls of the Passaic-a 77 foot drop through a canyon of basalt. It was here that Alexander Hamilton saw the potential for
|"Paterson lies on the valley under the Passaic Falls / its spent waters forming the outline of his back. / He lies on his right side, head near the thunder of the water filling his dreams!"|
- From Paterson by
William Carlos Williams 1963
harnessing the power of the falls for industry. With the help of then Governor William Paterson, Hamilton created the Society for the Establishment of Useful Manufactures (SUM) in order to facilitate the delivery of power and real estate for industries coming to Paterson.
The SUM constructed water raceways to provide cheap and plentiful power to mills and factories. Paterson became the nation's first planned industrial city, and the birthplace of the industrial revolution in the United States.
Paterson remained on the cutting edge of industrial development for many years and had a broad manufacturing base. Paterson was a great producer of textiles and silk, and earned the nickname "The Silk City" as the largest silk producer in the nation. Paterson was also home to the Colt revolver, the Holland submarine, and locomotives which helped to build the Panama Canal.
A city known for its "smokestacks and steeples," Paterson is still ripe with historical factories, churches, and examples of 19th century architecture. The city was also witness to numerous worker walk-outs and strikes which lay the foundation for the minimum wage, work safety, and child-labor laws.
Labor strife took a toll on Paterson, and like many northern textile producers, the city steadily lost business throughout the middle of the 20th century.
Today, Paterson is rich with history, though much of it has been neglected as new problems challenge Paterson's diverse population. From the top of Garrett Mountain visitors can look over the Paterson skyline where public housing complexes have joined the spires of majestic churches, office buildings and historic factories. The Great Falls of the Passaic still power a 10,000MW turbine created by the Edison Electric Company, but now the river flows through acres of abandoned industrial parks.
On March 30, 2009, President Obama signed legislation authorizing the falls as Paterson Great Falls National Park, which would provide additional federal protections for the 77-foot waterfall. As of January 2011, formal establishment of the falls as a unit of the National Park System is still pending.