Gianfranco Archimede, Director of the Paterson Historical Preservation Commission and industrial archeologist, gave a bus tour of Paterson’s rich industrial past this past Saturday. We got a nearly hour-long talk before the bus arrived to drive us around to the different building sites.
During the talk we heard about the Paterson Mill Survey which the Commission conducted in 2012. They studied the most important 30 sites outside the previously-studied Great Falls district. This tour came from all the information gathered during that study. Check out the link above for tons of information about all the mills they researched.
Paterson led the way in many different technologies throughout its history. Aeronautics, railroads, brewing, heavy industries like ironworks and, of course, the silk/weaving/dyeing industries that we’ve all heard about.
First up on the tour was the Rogers Locomotive Works on Spruce Street. The railroads changed modern life like no other industry at the time. Goods could be made in large factories and shipped all over the country within a few days.
Down the street from Rogers is one of the remaining buildings from the Barbour Flax Spinning Works.
More Barbour buildings are just a few blocks over on Grand Street. Barbour made threads for weaving, made textiles and even made leather goods.
Many of the buildings that are still in use are used in light manufacturing and storage. You can see the storage signs on the Barbour building above.
Near the second set of Barbour buildings was the Watson Machine Works.
Watson is still a company operating today!
They’ve made cast turbine wheels, prefabricated iron bridges, twining machines, cable-twisting and wire-twisting machinery (for bridge, nautical, and construction work), electronics, and, now, fiber optics. That’s quite a legacy.
Barnert Mill is still across the street, too, but used for other manufacturing. Barnert Hospital in Paterson is named after this family.
Next on the tour, we saw old mills being refitted into apartments.
The William Strange Silk Mill is being refurbished and even had an open house to see the new apartments in the first part of the renovated space.
This was a really cool view of the entrance to the mill. You can see all the construction going on to make the apartments.
On our way to the Strange Mills site, we passed a vacant block where the John Royle & Sons Machine Works once stood. It was recently torn down because of the recession. The property owner could no longer afford to maintain the buildings so despite efforts by the city, it was razed. Archimede stressed that this site is a reminder of how city and private owners are trying to work together for the betterment of the city even when the buildings can’t be saved.
Next, we moved on to the aeronautics industry with Wright Aeronautical Corporation on Lindbergh Street.
All those yellow towers were built to test airplane engines being built for Charles Lindbergh and WWII planes.
Our last stop was the Weidmann Silk Dyeing complex on River Street. The water in the Passaic River was said to be especially good for dyeing and Weidmann built a complex around a large horseshoe bend in the river. This was the site of some of the worst fighting during the Silk Mill Strike in 1913.
We weren’t able to stop due to time constraints but we drove by the John Hinchliffe & Sons Brewery on Governor Street. Hinchliffe went on to become Paterson mayor and helped rebuild Paterson after the devastating fire in 1902. You may also recognize his name from the stadium that’s named after him which Paterson is working hard to restore. Those are the grain silos on the left of the picture below from the brewery.
Check out all of our pictures from our tour through Paterson’s industrial past. And, stay tuned for more tours of Paterson which we’re definitely going to fill you in on!
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