The Paterson Great Falls is the most historic place that virtually no one in America has ever heard of, let alone visited. Soon that will change. On, March 30, 2009, President Obama signed bipartisan legislation that will make about 35 acres around the Great Falls our next National Park. It will be a National Park like no other.
In addition to local groups, many national organizations—including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Parks Conservation Association, NAACP, and the Sierra Club—supported the Paterson National Historical Park. Also supporting a Paterson National Historical Park were former Cabinet members who served in the Administrations of Presidents Gerald R. Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.
Leading newspapers published numerous editorials that supported making the Paterson Great Falls part of the National Park System. The New York Times published three editorials endorsing the Paterson National Park. Individual supporters included the preeminent Hamilton biographers of our time, renowned former Smithsonian curators, professors at every university in the Ivy League, N.Y.U., Duke, Williams—and at state universities from Massachusetts to Michigan and Arizona.
Now that President Obama has signed the Paterson legislation, we are working with the National Park Service to establish a citizen participation plan to complete the park design details and educational content, and move forward with construction. With funding from the State of New Jersey, and selection after a national design competition, James Corner Field Operations prepared the Park Master Plan. The firm’s design for the High Line in Lower Manhattan helped inspire their Master Plan for Great Falls. Like many other national parks, it will also be a state park. You can see the Master Plan here.
The new park will present Hamilton’s broader vision of economic independence and opportunity, along with details about inventions, labor struggles, setbacks and successes. Visitors will be able to walk through landscaped parklands along the river as well as in and among some of the industrial buildings that will be restored. It will be a place to embrace connections to other eras and opportunities, and to the city itself, as a living presence rather than as a museum or a Colonial theme park.
Today you can see the Great Falls that inspired Hamilton and you can explore the Paterson Museum, housed in an old locomotive factory, with early Colt revolvers and two of the first motorized submarines, silk machinery, and other Paterson manufacturing treasures. The President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Richard Moe, says “Pierre L’Enfant’s innovative waterpower system at the Great Falls-and many factories built later-constitute the finest remaining collection of engineering and architectural works representing each stage of America’s progress from Hamilton’s time to the twentieth century.”