Side trip: Paterson, NJ

26 Nov
Sunday the weather was so beautiful here, Steven and I decided to drive out to see the falls in Paterson — the so-called “engine of American industry.”  At the turn of the 19th into the 20th century, Paterson was a huge manufacturing center, with silk mills that provided cloth for both America and Europe. 

I remembered before we left that great-grandmother Vanderdonck -Vanderpyle lived in Paterson — my mother always said she lived “with the nuns.”  So I checked the 1920 census forms available on-line. Finding that she lived at the St. Frances Home for Working Girls — presumably for mill workers — I googled the address on Jackson Street in Paterson and we were off.

The former St Frances Home for Working Girls

The building which housed the St. Frances Home is still standing — a large brick edifice erected in 1899.  It looked institutional, so Steven tried the door.  Inside, we learned that it now houses Eva’s Kids, a shelter program for the working poor — homeless women and children.  We were told that only one room might look somewhat as it did in the early 20th century — the first floor chapel–  and we were shown in.

Former Chapel

The gothic windows — minus stained glass — indicated the room’s  former uses.  Now it was filled with children and a teacher.  The kids were practicing what they called their praise dance, a lovely series of movements to a song that sounded like a combination of  rhythm and blues, hip-hop, and Baptist hymn, for a performance that afternoon.  We were invited in to watch their final rehearsal.

What a moving scene: six children, a single boy no older than 7 or 8 and 5 preteen girls, dancing together in an act of praise.  I wish I had video to share it with you.  But how lovely to find the building still used to support women and children.

After a hearty round of applause, we were encouraged to buy something from the kids’  bake sale.  They were raising money to give back to the community which had been so kind to them.  A couple of  oatmeal raisin cookies later, we were on our way to explore the falls.  Not Niagara, by any means, but pretty impressive, and a nice place to picnic on a beautiful November day.

The Great Falls at Paterson, NJ

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Posted by on November 26, 2009 in Uncategorized


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