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Collection Working in Paterson: Occupational Heritage in an Urban Setting

Choosing a Focal Point

Recognizing that modest resources limited study to a single business strip closely associated with a neighborhood, the "Working in Paterson" team had to answer a basic question: What area should be selected? Ultimately,we settled on a section of 21st Avenue and surrounding blocks, comprisingportions of the Peoples' Park and Sandy Hill neighborhoods. There were severalreasons for this decision. The 21st Avenue area appeared to offer theopportunity to inquire into the commercial culture of a well-known and highlyregarded small business district, and an occasion for investigating culturalhistory (by means of the old European American-dominated 21st Avenueneighborhood) and culture change (through the emerging Hispanic neighborhoodand business district). In addition, the avenue is situated close to an oldtextile mill district, an area that developed later than the city's manufacturing core (now designated as the Historic District) but was nevertheless the site of substantial industrial activity. In fact, the 21st Avenue industrial area, which is situated at the west end of the avenue, near Straight Street (there are old mill buildings on parallel streets such as Lewis, State, and Gray Streets), may be part of the historical pathway or trajectory of a significant corridor of industrial development in Paterson.1

Map of Project Area

Like other sections of the city, the 21st Avenue section has a strong identity. But what is particularly fascinating is that its identity appears to stem from a special confluence of forces: ethnicity, occupation, and commercial development.


John Granata: "21st Avenue is still considered the heart of Paterson."

1.That corridor may be defined by drawing an imaginary line from theoriginal Historic District, south and east to Grand Street (with MainStreet as a central and defining north-south corridor), and then eastand south across the old railroad bed, and across Straight Street towardwhat are known as the Sandy Hill and Peoples' Park sections of the city.(Return to Text)

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