History of Silk City

Paterson, NJ was the gem in the crown of the American Industrial Revolution; a city of unmistakable value, not only for its industrial production, innovative design and inspiring pioneers, but for its unyielding strength, surviving numerous floods, fire, a tornado, and the crime and poverty that plague its people today. Paterson has always been rich, not in terms of monetary value, but in the spectrum of cultures reflected by its ever-diverse and growing population.

Though the last names have changed and the factories have since closed, the shadow of Paterson’s past can still be seen today in the remnants of the silk mills and dye houses, the grand architecture that lines its Downtown and Eastside sections; it can still be heard in the echoes of the majestic Great Falls and the crowded streets that have developed around it.  Paterson has always been home to a working class of many different cultures and creeds, as can be seen in the hundreds of houses of worship that grace the city, and perhaps thousands of ethnically inspired eateries that stretch across Paterson’s 14 zip codes.

While the last two centuries may have dulled its shine, its resilience betrays its flaws. Despite its current unfortunate reputation among the surrounding suburban towns, Paterson remains both unbreakable and unmoved from its place in American history, and Patersonians continue to defend their home with pride.   The skyline of steeples and smokestacks not only frames its past, which honors its motto of “Hope and Labor” but the extended landscape surrounding the historical center is a testimony to Paterson’s influence.  There would be no suburbs without this urban core.

Both nature and man played pivotal roles in Paterson’s founding and living legacy.  This exhibit will not only honor both, but is intended to move us as a society to appreciate, cultivate and reform Paterson back to its former glory…with Hope & Labor.