BY TOM STOELKER
Paterson, New Jersey, is a tough town. Gang violence is prevalent, teachers are being laid off, and about 30 percent of the city’s residents live in poverty. But the city’s got soul. On Market Street, the lively main thoroughfare, bachata music spills from 99-cent stores, and the scent of Peruvian food wafts through the air. Paterson has been a magnet for immigration since the 19th century, and the reason why is found nearby. Twenty minutes from the center of town is the Great Falls, now part of Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, where the Passaic River makes a majestic drop of 77 feet off basalt rock cliffs before it continues its twisted path. These are the falls that made Paterson.
In 1778, Alexander Hamilton, General George Washington’s aide-de-camp, recognized the river’s potential to harness power for both manufacturing and geopolitics. Hamilton understood the young nation needed to grow its industry to be independent of Europe. Through a group he helped form in 1791, the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures (SUM), Hamilton chose Paterson as the site of the nation’s first planned manufacturing development.
Gianfranco Archimede, who today directs Paterson’s Historic Preservation Commission, said: “At the end of the war, the king essentially said, (more…)