It’s the Great Falls in Paterson, NJ. For years we’ve been hearing about this, the second-biggest waterfall east of the Mississippi, but never took the 30-or-so minutes to get up there.
The city of Paterson itself was the brainchild of Alexander Hamilton. Thinking that the Passaic River was an excellent source of water power for mills, he started up the Society for the Establishment of Useful Manufactures in 1791.
The oldest section, near the falls, has a series of three raceways, where water is diverted from the river and along a series of canals. Periodically gates release the water to drop 22 feet to the next lower level, and in the process hitting the paddles of the mill wheels.
Below is the Franklin Mill, now home to an arts organization. The circular inset on the building was not where a wheel was. The wheel was inside, and the circle is where a pipe from the raceway fed water inside.
Like all early industrial cities these days, the best years are in the past. Nevertheless there are signs of life, such as the arts organization listed above, and the nearby Paterson Museum. Hulking shells sit side-by-side with fresher renovations.
Beyond the two buildings in the foreground is the tower of Paterson City Hall. Around City Hall is another historic district with architectural gems from the city’s greatest eras. A later travelogue will cover these, once we get up there again.
[googleMap name=”Great Falls” width=”450″]65 McBride Ave. East, Paterson, NJ 07501[/googleMap]