Landmark at Risk
District Significance
The ATP Site
Heritage Tourism
The Issues
Current Actions
City of Industry
Colt Gun Mill
Silk City
The Silk Strike of 1913
Rogers Locomotive
Other Industries
Alexander Hamilton
Contact Us


Ed Rutsch and the Society for Industrial Archeology at the Great Falls

Paterson Friends of the Great Falls, Inc. is dedicated to protecting and promoting the cultural and economic growth in the Great Falls / S.U.M. National Historic Landmark District in the City of Paterson, New Jersey. We attempt this by increasing public awareness, focusing critical attention on resources and issues, acquiring expertise and providing leadership on issues related to historic preservation, environmental protection, planning, and economic development. We also advocate preserving other historic districts and environmentally sensitive areas as a means to revitalizing communities and improving quality of life.

Our organization was borne out of the interests and needs of local citizens that were frustrated by the conditions of the Great Falls District. It was the consensus of the residents that they needed an organization to advance their concerns. The falls, engineered raceways, and mills form a complex that is unique and irreplaceable to our nation. They believe that a district this significant must belong to the public trust.

We are helping to form a close working relationship between citizens, organizations and local, county, state, and federal government officials to work interactively toward the renewal and revitalization of this area rich in historic and natural resource value. We intend to attract and utilize community ideas and sources to bring the importance of this area to national prominence.

Paterson Friends of the Great Falls, Inc. has focused much of its recent efforts in questioning the City of Paterson's decision to use federal and state funding to construct a prefabricated vinyl-sided townhouse development in the heart of the 118-acre Great Falls historic district. We have been able to advance our purposes by challenging this development. We believe this development will adversely affect and run cross-purposes to the issues that we seek to advance.

It is our unrelenting intention to disqualify this prefab housing and steer the funding into a redevelopment project worthy of the district's historic significance. By doing this, we hope to increase the district's status as a national tourist destination and to educate future generations about this site's role in America's early industrialism, which would truly benefit the people of Paterson and the state of New Jersey.

The 7-acre A.T.P. Site at the heart of the district has been in a decline from previous mismanagement and years of neglect by the city and developers. There has been a tremendous loss of historic resources. We are hoping to see a team fighting to establish a project of excellence for the future of this city-owned site. This site is directly adjacent to the National Natural Landmark Great Falls with approximately ½ mile of waterfront along the Passaic River. It is the largest undeveloped property in Paterson, centered amidst a natural wonder, with high cliffs on both sides with the contrast of natural beauty and early American mill industry.

The A.T.P. Site and Passaic River viewed from the Great Falls

We are advocating both the protection of the natural environment and the interpretation of this historic resource. Outdoor recreation opportunities, facilities, public access, and education programs would enhance the opportunity for people who live in an intensely urban center to enjoy the Great Falls and the Passaic River, one of North Jersey's greatest rivers. In this urban setting, with such incredible historic and natural features, a park with open space would improve the quality of life for Paterson residents and create a tourist destination that would benefit all North Jersey residents.

Congress has already endorsed the importance of the Great Falls historic waterpower district in Paterson by approving four million dollars in federal funding for preservation and environmental clean-up projects.  A two-year study has also been approved by Congress to ascertain the feasibility of turning the landmark district into a national park.

We hope to continue to make a difference in this stressed urban center. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us any time.


  1. There has been extensive press coverage of the historic district, including many articles in the Herald-News, the Record, and a front page article in the New York Times' New Jersey Section. The television station, WNJN (New Jersey Network News,) has also covered the A.T.P. Site story, with an interview with David Soo. A video documentary on the subject has been produced by the political science department at William Paterson University.

  2. Our involvement in the National Park Service’s Section 106 Review has been instrumental in expanding the number of consulting parties from eight to over forty individuals and organizations.

  3. The State of New Jersey's Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) reviewed the changes that the city and the developer had made to their proposal. The state has control over the sale of publicly held historic properties. They concluded that the sale of the site must be denied unless significantly enhanced conditions are met.

  4. On March 29th, 1999, Paterson Friends of the Great Falls, Inc. and property owners in the district filed a lawsuit in Superior Court challenging the City of Paterson's Planning Board’s conditional approval of the Regan Development Corporation’s permit application. With this lawsuit, we assert that the developer received special exemptions from the city's redevelopment requirements that the planning board granted without the expressed authority to do so. We are well represented by the firm of Lite, Depalma, Greenberg & Rivas, LLC, Two Gateway Center, Newark, New Jersey. The developer has taken a passive role in the litigation and is not contributing to the legal defense of their own application. The city has taken on this defense. We are very confident that this litigation will result in the disqualification of the proposed project. The judge motioned a remand back to the Planning Board to discuss the questionable issues brought forth. We are expecting the developer to be dedesignated by Paterson City Council in the interim.

  5. In December 2000, the State of New Jersey's Department of Community Affairs refused to renew the extension on the developer’s principal funding. The developer had acquired a $5.3 Million grant through the State of New Jersey's U.H.O.R.P. program. This funding was approved in 1995, renewed many times, and then denied. The loss of $5.3 million is a significant blow to the proposed development’s viability. In May 2001, the city put forth to the Paterson City Council a new source of funding from the state, called the Cool Cities Program. No vote has been made on this issue, pending discussions on the dedesignation of the developer.

  6. The Passaic County's Department of Planning has listed the ATP Site, (one of two sites in Paterson,) as a parcel of land they plan to acquire in their "Open Space and Recreation Master Plan."

  7. Our website has had tens of thousands of visitors from all around the world. We are especially pleased with the number of students that have used our site as an educational resource. It describes in great detail the district, the history, the proposed development, the governmental reviews, the important issues, potential consequences, and the comments by the public and agencies involved. It has been a vital aid, not only to the public and organizations such as the Society for Industrial Archeology, but also to the participating governmental agencies, such as the President’s Advisory Council for Historic Preservation, the National Park Service, and the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office. Its use during the Section 106 Review marks the importance of accessible information with the mandated review of federal actions.

  8. The views of our government representatives have changed. Among the changes in agendas are Representative Bill Pascrell's support of a national park in the district and the Paterson City Council's vote to hire the Waterfront Center to plan a more attractive riverfront access on the A.T.P. site.

  9. A grant has been awarded to the Passaic River Coalition to prepare a landscape architectural plan for a renewed landscape around the Great Falls.



Public comments have expressed requests for more public access, environmental protection and historic interpretation in the historic district. The public’s concerns are paramount. We will urge government officials and all organizations interested in the Great Falls district to facilitate an extensive and collaborative approach in determining the final recommendations for preservation and conservation. This will require a close working relationship to plan, fund and execute projects that enhance the NHL, not destroy its interpretive aspects and fill it with incompatible prefabs.

The archeology being done with federal funding on the ATP site will impact the final use of the site. The overwhelming response, time after time, from concerned citizens and organizations is that the historic remnants on the ATP Site are extremely important.  Decisions will have to be made in regards to the treatment and interpretation of these historic resources.

A walkway along the Upper Raceway, which has been drained for restoration projects.

We will continue to assess development around this critically sensitive resource. Proper planning mechanisms will be promoted to make the best of heritage tourism. We will continue to encourage field visits for direct observation of the physical realities of the issues at hand. We will continue to focus critical attention and assess ways to mitigate problems pertaining to planning, historic preservation, education and environmental protection. This, in turn, will lead to increased public involvement and educational opportunities.

Paterson Friends of the Great Falls, Inc. plans to continue its efforts at all fronts to incite interest in the district and to encourage community involvement in the planning and visioning process that would enable worthy developments. This will enhance the Great Falls district and bring a benefit to all the people of New Jersey. This 200-year-old industrial center deserves the best we can give it.

We hope that you will be inspired to help our community find lasting opportunities for its preservation and economic growth. It would be a quality example of the integration of environmental protection and historic preservation of an industrial center in a hardened urban city.  Thank you.