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To: The People of Paterson

A Proposal To:


Create in Paterson One of America's
Major Tourist Attractions




From: Thomas C. Rooney, Jr.


May 22, 2001


My Fellow Patersonians,

I am presenting to you this formal proposal to create in our City one of the most important tourist attractions in the entire United States. It would be located in the area of the Great Falls, the Passaic River and what we call the ATP site. I will make specific recommendations as to what I believe should be done in each of these places and then take you on a walking tour of the area as it would be if all these recommendations were implemented.


1. The ATP Site.

There is enormous disagreement about what should be done at the ATP site. Some say, Make it a national park, others say, Cover it over with thousands of cubic yards of dirt, macadam, concrete and some houses. Let’s stop and think for a moment about what we actually have here.


This little piece of land is the place where the mightiest industrial complex in human history began! As a tiny acorn grows into a massive oak tree, so did Alexander Hamilton’s dream of American industry begin on this ground and grow into the industrial giant which is the envy of the rest of the world. We must not make a mistake in how we treat this most special part of America. 

The guideline I recommend for our use of the ATP site is the same as that given for centuries to young doctors as to how they should treat their patients First, do no harm! Do nothing which will permanently take away from us its full potential use. Treat it with great caution and respect.

I therefore propose the following for the ATP site:

A.      Clean it up. Remove the weeds, the litter, and the obviously modern junk.
B.      Have experts in history, industry and archaeology carefully study the buildings and materials which are here and identify those which are historically significant and worth saving. Put them in order as best we can. Eliminate the rest.
C.      Place professionally designed signs beside each structure explaining what it is, when it was constructed and what its purpose was.
D.      Build pleasing paths (not blacktop!) and benches so visitors can enjoyably wander through this area, learn about it, think about it and, hopefully, make it a permanent part of their lives.
E.       Build a Visitors Welcoming Center at the entrance.
F.       Build a Lenni Lenape Indian village. This is most important. You will see why shortly.

2. The Passaic River


The Passaic River has been extremely important to the 200+ year history of Paterson and for thousands of years to the history of the people who lived here long before we came around. It will also be vital to the success of creating our major tourist attraction. The following are needed to implement my proposal:

A.      Build a dock for some small boats.
B.      Buy several boats of the proper design.
C.      Build a footbridge over the river.
D.      On the far side of the footbridge build a path on the riverbank on which people can walk along the river up to the chasm and the Great Falls.
E.       At the end of the path make a tunnel through the rock wall.


3. The Chasm and Great Falls


For most visitors this will probably be the high point of their trip to Paterson and the main reason many will come back again and again in the years ahead. To carry out my proposal we need to:

A.      Build a deck inside the chasm at the outlet of the tunnel.

B.      Build a catwalk from the deck to a location deep inside the chasm directly across from the waterfall itself.

Now, let us assume that all these things have been done and allow me to be your tour guide on a trip through this most special place. Please turn this report sideways, look at the photographs and read the text as we

Walk Back in Time 10,000 Years!

As you can see from the sign over the entrance, the theme of our City’s Tourist Attraction is “Walk Back in Time 10,000 Years!” for that is exactly what you will be doing. First, you will enter our Visitors Welcoming Center. This is a building where people can refresh themselves, especially if they are coming from a distance. It has a small restaurant, rest rooms, maps and a video presentation showing what lies ahead of you on your visit. Knowledgeable uniformed aides are here to answer any questions you may have.

As we leave the Welcoming Center you walk along the path which will take you to the buildings and items of particular historical interest. By each one you see a sign stating how far back in time you have walked at that point. The sign then tells you when that building was built, what it was used for, some of the history of the building and, if appropriate, information about the person who was responsible for building it. By each sign there are free brochures about the building which you are welcome to take with you. You paid your entrance fee when you came in and almost everything from that point on is at no additional cost.

Over here are two archaeologists working in the dig they have excavated. They are searching for significant tools, materials and other items of historical value. They search first on one part of this property and then move to another and they have made some important finds. We’ve placed benches by the dig so anyone who wishes to can sit and watch them at work.

Also, on that table you can look at some of the objects they've found just today.

You notice that this is a very quiet and peaceful environment. We have no loudspeakers blaring music, news or anything else. Nor do we allow noisy boomboxes or other such things. There are comfortable benches on which you can rest whenever you wish, read your literature or just sit and think about all you are seeing here

In this area, as in the other areas, you see uniformed aides who are there to answer your questions or help resolve any problem you may have. They are equipped with cell phones so they can quickly reach any appropriate authority needed.

As you walk through the remains of these ancient buildings we hope you will give some thought to the thousands of men and women who built them and worked in them long before most of us were even born. Some spent their entire working lives here, going in as teenagers and coming out as elderly men and women in their 60s and 70s. Think of how they labored in those days without all the conveniences we take for granted today. Long hours, long work weeks, hard physical work, and little money or benefits to show for it. They helped to create all we have now. We owe them some reflection and our respect.

Now, let us move on to another special place, the >>>>>>>


Lenni Lenape Village

The experts tell us that thousands of years before Christopher Columbus, Leif Erikson or any other explorers came to this side of the Atlantic Ocean the someday-to-be-New Jersey was the home of the Lenni Lenape Indians. They lived in this someday-to-be-Paterson after the Ice Age came to an end in this region - at least 10,000 years ago - and some of their descendants are still with us.



Yet, we know so very little about them! To help correct this we have constructed, as accurately as possible, a replica of what their homes and one of their villages would have been like during those thousands of years. We have made use of all the expertise we could fmd to make what you see here an honest and faithful reproduction.

You see their wigwams and one of their longhouses. You see life like statues of them as they go about their daily life. They hunt, fish in the river, cook, grow crops, and play. You can go into the longhouse and wigwams to see for yourself how they actually lived. Again, there are brochures to read and take with you. There are benches for those who wish to stay here a while to learn and think about these remarkable people who successfully lived off this land without any of the many conveniences we take for granted today. We truly believe this will be an important learning experience, not only for adults, but also for the many thousands of children who will come here.


Now, let's go down to the Boat Dock and take a little trip. You're going to love this one!

The Boat Rides

At the boat dock on the ATP side of the river you can choose to take either of two different boat rides. One ride will take you from the dock upriver to the very mouth of the chasm as shown in Photograph 3 below. Few people have ever been this close to the chasm and seen the Great Falls from this vantage point. I hope you brought your camera, because you can take some exceptional shots from this location. The view, the spray and the sound of the Falls at this location will be something you'll be eager to describe to your family, friends, neighbors and those you work with, as well as showing them the pictures you've taken.

After you've spent some time at the mouth of the chasm the boat will return you to the dock where you can proceed to the next part of the tour - the footbridge over the Passaic River.

However, if you have chosen to take the second type of boat ride turn to the next page to see where you'll go after viewing the chasm!


The Second Boat Ride

The Second Boat Ride will also take you from the dock to the mouth of the chasm. However, after leaving the chasm it will not return to the dock but will turn left onto the river (as the boat in the photo below is about to do) and continue on down the river. You will go on a leisurely and enjoyable trip through downtown Paterson, under our bridges and have a tour guide point out places of historical and current interest. The length of the trip can vary depending on the condition of the river but it could extend all the way to Crooks Avenue or even to the Dundee Dam. This is a trip which is very popular with Patersonians, for as many have said, We've often seen the river from Paterson but we've never seen Paterson from the river!

Anyhow, after either boat ride is completed we return to the dock and then go on a short path to the footbridge.

The Footbridge

The footbridge is an essential part of your tour because it allows you to go from the ATP side of the river to the side with the chasm and the waterfall. You can spend some time on the bridge looking at the river if you wish (as some folks in Photograph 5 are doing), or you can continue over the bridge and turn left onto the path which will lead you along the river bank right up to the rock wall which forms the outside of the mouth of the chasm.

You have probably noticed long before now that all of our paths are very smooth and easy to walk on. We have made them pleasant to travel on even for folks in wheelchairs and with walkers or canes as well as baby carriages and strollers.

As we walk down this path along the river you notice how quiet everything is. The noise of civilization has disappeared and all you can hear are the sounds of the river and the birds in the trees. Here, too, we have placed comfortable benches, since many people just want to sit quietly and watch and listen to the river and these sounds of nature. It's very restful. Some say it's even a form of healing for them. For now, though, let's go on down the path. You’re coming near to the high point of your tour and, we hope, one of the high points of your life!

The Tunnel Into the Chasm

Here you are on the path which ends at the massive rock wall ahead of us. On your left a man is fishing - just as the Lenni Lenape Indians did at this spot for thousands of years. The tunnel entrance is right ahead, but, before you go in, put on one of these raincoats and a hood. We have them in all sizes and you'll sure need it in a few minutes! These are similar to those which millions of us have worn on the Maid of the Mist boat ride at Niagara Falls.

Are you ready to go into the tunnel? It isn't very long and, believe me, when you come out the other side you will be in another world. Let's go!

The Tunnel Exit and Deck

As you walk out of the tunnel you are here on a deck just inside the mouth of the chasm. This is the beginning of a world different than anything you have ever seen before. Let’s stop for a while so you can look around at this magnificent view. Right in front of us the water is pouring out from the chasm, the spray from the waterfall is landing on your face and the roar of the falls compels your attention. Don’t forget to use your camera! Some people become so engrossed in this experience that they completely forget to take some pictures. You can get some beauties from here, can’t you?

Your curiosity is getting the best of you, isn't it? You wonder what it's like deeper in the chasm. So let’s leave the deck, go onto the catwalk and walk around the corner of the rock wall into:


The Awesome World of the Great Falls

You have now walked back in time 10,000 Years! The experts tell us that this chasm and waterfall were formed more than 10,000 years ago as the ice which had covered this land hundreds of feet high retreated and left this in its wake. The roar of the Falls is so loud now that you can barely hear me. The spray is really getting greater. The sight and sound are becoming almost overwhelming. In fact, a few people don't want to go all the way to the end of the catwalk. That's OK. Anyone can stop at any point you wish and either stay there or return back. Other people have the opposite reaction - they don’t want to leave at all! Who can blame them?

(Don't forget to take some pictures!)

Would you like to see what all this looks like to those looking down from the footbridge over the chasm? Take a look at the next photo I can show you, Photograph No. 9.

The Catwalk Down in the Chasm.

To be on this catwalk way down in the bottom of the chasm is truly an experience you will never forget! To stand here and look up at a thundering wall of water nearly eight stories high. To see the awesome power of nature right in front of your eyes. To hear the incredible sound envelop you. Indeed, you not only hear the sound, you can actually feel it. Stand here for a while and savor this, for it really will be with you for the rest of your life!

Whenever you're ready we can leave. We'll walk back down the catwalk, across the deck, through the tunnel, down the path and across the footbridge over the river. Feel free to revisit any of the other portions of the tour again - the boat ride, the Indian Village, the Historic Buildings area. There’s no hurry. Spend all day here if you wish. Stop at our Visitors Welcoming Center before you leave to refresh yourself. We have some real nice mementos of your visit here such as professionally made videotapes and DVDs of the entire tour (with surround sound, no less!) so you can play them at home and relive this entire tour. Show them to your family, friends, and neighbors. Pick up our brochures listing other places you can visit while you're in Paterson. Our exceptional museum, City Hall, fine restaurants - some just a few steps away.

Take a stroll around the rest of our Historic District -the Raceway, the Hydroelectric Plant and the footbridge over the chasm. We have so much here for you to see!

The Visitors Welcoming Center also has many high quality books, literature and photographs about this most special place - far more detailed for those wanting more information about our history, geology, people, etc.

I'm glad you've enjoyed this trip around Paterson's Great Falls and Historic District and hope you’ll come back again. You are always welcome here in Paterson!


The proposal which I have given here is an attempt to make something very special happen in our City of Paterson. We need to create something which will cause people from both near and far away to want to come here, to have a most enjoyable time here, and, after they have left, to urge others to come here and see what they have seen. We need people from all over to speak of Paterson, New Jersey with pleasure, with enthusiasm, with admiration, with respect - not based on some phony advertising they have read, but based on what they have seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears. I believe this proposal can be a major force in causing that to happen.

Some folks, after seeing this proposal may say that it’s all too much, too difficult, too impossible. But just look at some of the individual items I have recommended and judge for yourself:

1.       Surely we can clean the place up, have it studied by experts, put up some signs and build an Indian village. (Wait till you see all the volunteers we'll get for that)!
2.       Surely we can make some paths, build a boat dock and buy some boats. Millions of people do these things all the time.
3.       Surely we can build a footbridge over this little river. After all, our predecessors built the footbridge over the chasm itself! Are we any less capable than they were?
4.       Surely we can make a small tunnel through a rock wall. Other humans have made tunnels through entire mountains, under rivers, indeed, even under the English Channel.
5.       Surely we can make a deck and a catwalk on a rock wall. We'll call in rock experts as well as any other type of expert required to analyze the rock formation and give us a report on whether or not it is completely safe to build the tunnel, deck and catwalk. If it's safe, we'll go ahead. If it's too dangerous, we’ll forget it and come up with something else.


Each of the things I have proposed is doable until proven otherwise. And if something is doable the next questions are, Do we want to do it? and Should we do it? Therefore, I am requesting the people of Paterson to study this proposal, discuss it, modify it, rip it apart, put it back together again, make it better it every way possible, but make it happen!

Other men and women in past years worked hard to elevate our Historic District and Falls into a major drawing card for our City. Most notable were former Mayor Lawrence Pat Kramer and his wife, Mary Ellen. This proposal would build on their work. Let's not put it off for some future generation to do. We should do it now.

In the movie Field of Dreams the hero is a farmer and baseball fan who looks at his fields of tall corn and hears a voice which keeps telling him, Build it and they will come! Meaning build a baseball field there and people will come. I believe the same applies here. Build it and they will come. They will come by the thousands. Those interested in the history of our nation will come. Those looking for something exciting and different will come. Those looking for someplace to bring their children to learn and see wondrous sights will come. Those who read in the travel magazines and newspapers and our own web page about this most special place in Paterson, New Jersey will come. They will bring us revenue and help provide jobs for our people who will work at this place and they will leave and spread the word of how grand a trip they had to Paterson, New Jersey and what a wonderful City it is and will encourage others to come here too.

Is this what we need? You know it is. So, let's do it.

Thomas C. Rooney, Jr.
Councilman, 6th Ward &
Former Mayor of Paterson

Note: Please feel free to make full use of this report. Duplicate it in whole or in part, pass it around, give your opinions about it to anyone you choose, especially those of us who are public officials and have a great responsibility for what will happen in this home of ours. Thank you very much.

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