We take pride in restoring these treasures for future generations to come. MGNY has had several historic projects (Congdon Mill, Hamilton Heights, Cooke) in Paterson and we learned today that it is the anniversary of the Great Fire of 1902, the worst in the state's history.
Taken from New Jersey Historic Society's Facebook Post (click the link to see the images)
"TODAY is the anniversary of the Great Fire of 1902 in Paterson, New Jersey – the worst in the State’s history.
It began just before midnight with an overheated stove in the trolley car sheds in the northeast corner of the city. Wind gusts of 50 miles-per-hour were blowing on that frigid winter night, & the wooden building went up like tinder. Fanned by the winds, the flames & embers quickly spread in a southeasterly direction eventually devouring 26 blocks of the finest structures in the city. The fire burned for 13 hours, until 1pm the following day.
All the engines in the fire department were called out, & many nearby towns assisted, but the circumstances were no match for the valiant efforts of the firefighters & antiquated equipment. In hindsight, the mistake of not sending fire companies downwind to the residential neighborhood of Sandy Hill to douse the flying embers on wooden roofs allowed the blaze to tear through that section of town, after jumping the railroad tracks.
When it was finally over, Paterson's core was gone. Not counting sheds or outbuildings, 459 buildings were destroyed – more than ¼ of the city’s structures. The fire caused $6 million in damages (1902 value). Large office buildings, banks, churches, City Hall, the Free Public Library, theaters, clubs & scores of handsome residences were reduced to ashes. Five hundred families lost their homes and everything they owned.
To quote a newspaper article at the time, “A number of persons were injured, hundreds are homeless and thousands are left without employment. The great manufacturing plants of the place are safe.”
The Free Public Library, with its 37,000 volumes, was the first public one in New Jersey. Its building was the former home of the Danforth family, which built its fortune in manufacturing locomotives, & machinery for Paterson’s textile industry. After the library was destroyed, Mary Ryle Danforth donated money to build the new library.
Reconstruction was financed by local banks, insurance money & private donations. Wealthy citizens paid for relief to local families. Mayor John Hinchliffe refused outside capital assistance. He wanted to show that Paterson – one of the major manufacturing centers in the US with its silk & textile industry – could care for itself.
The city’s strength was tested again only 3 weeks later, when the Great Flood of 1902 submerged the city. Mayor Hinchliffe guided the city through that daunting disaster, as well."
From Alexander Hamilton, to the Great Fire, to the city's important industrial role, Paterson is an incredibly resilient, diverse, historic city right in our backyard. If you haven't explored the Great Historic Falls District, we highly recommend. You will be presently surprised.