Broadway is shut down until next May at the earliest, but Hamilton fans can still follow in their hero's footsteps in Manhattan and New Jersey. We decided to go to the Great Falls National Historic Park in Paterson, NJ as our first stop on an Alexander Hamilton-inspired tour.
Alexander Hamilton gazes out over the Great Falls in Paterson, NJ.
It's not always easy to look on the bright side of the pandemic, but we have tried to weather our lack of travel and our limited socialization by exploring close-to-home locations that we had been too busy to see when we were hopping off to exotic places around the world. What we've discovered has been wonderful and we're embarrassed to say that these great day trips were right in front of us, but we always looked past them. First up was a day trip to the Great Falls in Paterson. The site is just a 30 minute drive from mid-town Manhattan and is open outdoors for mask wearing, socially distant visitors. Although the museum is closed and there are no tours available, the parking is free and the views are wonderful.
The story goes that Hamilton, George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette stopped at the Totowa Falls for a little picnic after the Battle of Monmouth in July of 1778. The site had been used for centuries by the Lenni Lenape tribe for fishing and they named the falls the Totowa, meaning the water's weight. Inspired by the majesty and power of the waterfall, Hamilton decided that this site should be the first industrial city of the new nation. His dream became a reality when he became the first Treasury Secretary of the United States and was able to direct funds from a manufacturing group he co-founded to buy 700 acres of land around the falls. The new city of Paterson became a wealthy industrial center of silk and cotton mills powered by the falls. Paterson has seen hard times in the more recent past, but it is encouraging to experience the beauty of the falls in the heart of the city. In post-pandemic days, visitors will once again be able to enjoy guided tours and history programs given by the park's rangers. Adjacent to the falls, they will be able to learn about the silk mills that at one time made Paterson a thriving, model industrial city for the new American nation.
A walk around the park brings visitors pretty close to the thundering falls. There is in fact, a small bridge from which you can take spectacular pictures. Soprano fans might recognize it from a sixth season episode when two of Junior's associates threw a drug dealer to his death in the waters below.