Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park

Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park is home to one of the country's most spectacular waterfalls—a 260-foot-wide, 77-foot drop that rushes through the Passaic River Gorge and is recognized as a National Natural Landmark. These astounding falls made Paterson the ideal site for one of America's earliest industrial parks—a thriving manufacturing district developed in part by founding father Alexander Hamilton and run for decades on the area's abundant hydropower.

Hamilton helped establish the city of Paterson in 1792 with the Society for Establishing Useful Manufacturers. The founders envisioned a center for industry in America that could provide jobs, independence, and wealth to the young nation, similar to the industrial revolution taking place in England at that time. Manufacturers built mills in the Great Falls business district and produced various kinds of goods, including cotton fabrics, railroad locomotives, textile machinery, jute, Colt revolvers, and aircraft engines. What Paterson became best known for, however, was its silk. The community attracted immigrant laborers with specialized skills in spinning, weaving, and dyeing. The town came to dominate the industry and Paterson itself became known as "Silk City."

Between 1880 and 1900, silk workers organized some 140 labor strikes against mill owners in pursuit of better working conditions and pay. In 1911, a government survey credited silk workers in Paterson for establishing a 55-hour work week as an industry standard, making 10-hour days and half-days on Saturdays the norm. In 1913, mill owners sparked an industry-wide strike when they introduced new looms with automated controls, expecting workers to tend three or four looms at once, instead of the usual two. Within a month, nearly 300 mills closed and 24,000 workers walked off the job. The strike lasted five months, gaining national attention. Although the workers did not get the shorter work days and higher pay they demanded, the industry did not immediately enact the more automated four-loom system of weaving.

Visitors to Paterson Great Falls can view historic mill buildings and learn about about the lives of mill workers who have been at the center of this diverse and vibrant community for decades.

Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park








March 26, 2015

I was a lifelong resident of the city until 2007 and worked for the City of Paterson for 45 years before retiring in 2005. I lived 2 blocks from the Falls and walked past every day going to Central High School. I have written 2 books about the falls and one about Paterson itself. The Falls books will be sold at the new gift shop at the Visitor Center across from the Falls and the Paterson book can be purchased at the Paterson Museum.


June 26, 2013

I grew up in Paterson and visited the falls often. As I grew older and began to drive, I would drive out-of-town visitors to view it's splendor. I am so glad it was spruced up and made a National Park.


March 20, 2013

I am also thrilled to see this park finally come into its own! I visited the site several years ago when it was still under consideration and watched as it was first turned down, and then miraculously brought back for approval by Congress. Congratulations Paterson, NJ and all who helped make it a reality. It is unique for its historical and natural beauty. It makes me proud to be from NJ!


January 29, 2013

I grew up in Vernon Township, but grandfather's family has roots in Paterson's early history. I am told that they were of French descent and that they were merchants. Paterson was one of the earliest industrial centers in the United States which is why this site needs to be revitalized or at least protected. I feel that the Great Falls area's status as a National Historical Park will draw more visitors which will hopefully impel officials to fund restoration projects on some of the old buildings. I am looking forward to visiting the site soon as I have yet to do so.


May 7, 2012

I grew up in the Paterson area and knew it was nicknamed "silk city", but never viewed the falls. I look forward to seeing them. However I am concerned about the funding to maintain all national parks - they are one of the treasures of our nation.


May 3, 2012

I grew up in Paterson, visited and drove by the Great Falls almost weekly- It is a powerful and moving national treasure that many people don't even know about, much less viewed! It is on my list of places to revisit, especially after extended rainfall!


May 3, 2012

Am glad to know that workers are being honored & look forward to visiting another of the wonderful sites in our country.


May 3, 2012

My grandparents were French immigrants who moved to Paterson in the early 1900s to work in the lace mills. All the kids were employed in the mills and my grandma did lace mending piece work at home. I was born in Paterson, and heard stories of the unions and strikes which my family members participated in. Paterson continues to be a welcoming city to immigrants and working class people. The NJ poet William Carlos Williams praised Paterson and the Falls, but by the time I was growing up in the 50s and 60s much of that early history and beauty had been lost. It is so great to see the Falls revitalized and it's early importance to New Jersey and the Nation remembered.


February 15, 2012

I am also thrilled to finally see this deserving site listed by NPCA and given the respect it deserves. This community needs this kind of remarkable recognition for its unique contribution to our Nation's history! Looking forward to it's continued improvement and enhancement and the respect it deserves.


November 30, 2011

Good Idea but where is the money going to come to operate it? NPS continues to cut the budget all over the country. The NPS has a history of getting sites because local areas can't afford or don't want them. I know the area well growing up a few miles away and having visited it often over the years. Yes the the falls looks nice and is impressive but its in the middle of a depressed industrial area and I suspect will cost a good deal to bring up to standards.

George Moffatt

November 26, 2011

My favorite story is about Sandy Hook, when the NPS selected an apparently inexperienced property manager to restore 26 Army buildings, for which he would get 60 years leases. When a local group< Save Sandy Hook, opposed the privatization and commercialization of Fort Hancock at Sandy Hook, the NPCA came out in favor of the project. When the local group later sought help from the NCPA, despite its ill-advised endorsement of non-park-related commercial tenants in the historic fort district, neither the national or regional offices would contact us to hear our arguments. After 10 years, the so-called developer was thrown out of Sandy Hook for failure to raise the funds he had promised, as none of of the 33 really dilapidated buildings were rehabbed and one of the three well-maintained buildings he had cherry-picked as his headquarters, which had been previously the NPS HQ and maintained by the taxpayers, is now in shambles, with its front porch collapsing. Thanks a lot, NPCA, for the otherwise lovely Sandy Hook website. Pity you didn't give a hoot about Sandy Hook 11 years ago when the NPS but it on the block for commercial use.


November 26, 2011

It's wonderful to see that this nearly forgotten piece of America's history, both industrial and social, is being preserved and information about it disseminated.


November 26, 2011

My wife and I had the great privledge of visiting Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks this year. Breathtaking both.


November 26, 2011

I am thrilled that Paterson falls is now a National Park in NJ. It is breathtaking, especially in the winter when it freezes over.

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