Why Paterson Matters

A National Park for the 21st Century

Millions of Americans who feel little or no connection with our national parks and the Founding Fathers will find much greater meaning within Paterson’s authenticity and diversity. Professor John Hope Franklin, an ardent supporter of the Paterson National Park during the last years of his life, had chaired the National Park System Advisory Board and helped author its report, Rethinking the National Parks for the 21st Century, which urged the Park Service to place a high priority on sites, themes, and stories not well represented in the National Park System–particularly African American history, arts and literature, and social movements. Each of these themes finds expression in Paterson near the Great Falls.

In 1792, our first Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, announced that at the Great Falls in New Jersey he would found the City of Paterson to jumpstart his strategy to secure the new nation’s economic independence and begin transforming a rural agrarian society based in slavery into a modern economy based in freedom. At the Great Falls, then the nation’s most powerful waterfall, Hamilton began the implementation of his far-reaching plan to achieve the economic independence that secured America’s future and launched the American dream.

Hamilton alone among America’s Founders championed the spirit of enterprise and opportunity that would transform a Third World nation into the greatest economic power ever known. We live today in the economic world Hamilton envisioned and—starting at the Great Falls in Paterson—played a major role in creating.