Monday, February 22, 2016

Patterson: Great Falls and Tired City

Eddie and I went out to Patterson New Jersey this week-end.  I wanted to see the waterfall, we both ended up learning a lot about someplace very close geographically, but very far away in time and temperament.
So the Great Falls of the Passaic are in town.  There have been power plants here for a long long time.
The Great Falls of the Passaic (see people on upper right for scale)

The falls and the Power Station (this one rebuilt in 1912)
Turns out Alexander Hamilton worked with Pierre L'Enfant to drive commerce here.  They damned above the river and then built a series of 3 "Raceways" which were canals to divert the river to drive factories.
Walkway on left, old water "Raceway" for power on the left.  Old factories in Patterson
Patterson turned out lots of things, but in the 1860s began to focus on silk fabrics and trimmings due to a set of odd tariffs dropped by England, that destroyed British Silk Textiles to the French, and tariffs raised by the Americans during the Civil War - that made the home market really profitable.
A Silk Loom - towards the most modern at the time (early 1920s)

Says it right on it: Soft Silk Skein Winder

The built a LOT of other things as well.  Here are some examples we saw at the Patterson Museum.
Wright / Crosley engines (yes, the Wright Brothers).  Used in the Spirit of St. Louis

Submarines.  The foreground was the prototype, found in the Passaic River in the 1920s by a scout troop.  The distance is a early version that held more people.

Colt build pistols here!  Who knew?

 Patterson, the city, is very poor now.  Manufacturing started leaving in the early 1900s, off for states with less labor laws.  The unions were powerful, and when new machines increased output, but cut workers, they struck.
Manufacturing continued to leave throughout the century, until there was nothing left by the 1980s.  It is know a poor town where poor people commute to New York City by bus.  Some of the old factories and mills are getting new life as art studios, schools and museums, but it will be a long slog.  There is a big backlog of cruddy housing and bad memories.
So it was a cool, but sad week-end trip in many ways.

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