Digging up new life for old mills


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Preservationists are a step closer to transforming the city’s long-lost industrial hub into a national public attraction after a month long excavation of the old mills.

A team of experts had good news for Paterson about excavation conducted in and around the Allied Textile Printing site. A 10-member team of archeologists, architects and engineers in May dug under the dense brush and weeds covering the old Allied Textile Printing site to find out how many of the 40 structures and water channels could be restored and incorporated into a national historic park.

What they found was encouraging, researchers said. It included two stories of the Colt Gun Mill, home of the nation’s first revolver, as well as remnants of a support base that marked where a wooden flume once carried water to power the gun mill before plunging over a bluff as a 30-foot waterfall.

“They may want to re-create that someday,” said Edward Morin, the chief archeologist for the $300,000 project. “It would actually be a spectacular view.”

The team presented its findings at a public hearing Tuesday at City Hall.

With its labyrinthine raceways to turn waterwheels and a half-dozen mills to make silk, guns and dye, the 7.5 acres off Van Houten Street near the Great Falls today holds artifacts that preservationists hope to eventually show off on public tours.

That is still decades away. Many sections still need excavating and others are blighted by hazardous chemicals dumped over the years. But the recent archeological report paints an optimistic picture. Morin estimates that up to 50 percent of the site could be in good enough condition to be preserved. Now researchers would like to sort through debris for loose artifacts and dig even deeper.

“There has to be a sort of peel-the-onion approach to get to the lower layers,” said Anelle Di Sisto, of Farewell Mills Gatsch Architects, which has partnered on the project with Morin’s archeological firm, URS Corporation.

The Great Falls and surrounding areas like the Allied Textile site were given National Historic Park status last year. The team of experts still has have three more weeks of digging, mainly to try to reach the bottom of a huge channel that directed water into the Passaic River. Then they will submit their report to the federal and state environmental agencies funding the park’s development, recommending more excavation and stabilization.

This was not the first team to dig at the site, and it most likely won’t be the last, researchers said.

Author: Zach Patberg | Source: New Jersey Com [December 15, 2010]



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