Riverside Silk Milk

Riverside Silk Mill
Architectural Context, Integrity & Significance
The Riverside Silk Mill faces south, fronting River St. on a parcel of 3.4 acres that is defined by the Passaic River on its north side.  Other contributing and non contributing ancillary structures are situated behind the 400-foot long mill, further establishing its integrity and context, including its original square smokestack. The three-story, 51-bay brick mill building is laid out in  symmetrical massing, and exhibits a number of features of architectural interest, including a tripartite central front entrance bay that is taller, stepped and corbelled, with a central oculus under which the name of the mill is emblazoned in what appears as cut sandstone lettering. Windows of this central bay are quoined in sandstone together with sandstone and brick string courses that serve as additional embellishments. The full arched corbelled main entrance with marquee further emphasizes the grandiosity of the structure.

All other windows and entrances are segmental arched and simply corbelled with stone sills. The string courses on level with the sills is carried from the central entrance bay outward along the "wings," east and west to further lengthen the appearance of the building. The power plant consisted of four boilers and engines centrally located behind the main entrance of the building. Two additional "wings" were constructed tightly parallel and behind the east and west front wing sections, giving an H-style massing configuration, and almost doubling the amount of the work floor space. This was in keeping with the traditional tall and narrow proportions for brick and heavy timber style construction that would soon after give way to wide-bay concrete and steel industrial buildings that proliferated over the next thirty years.

The architectural character and integrity of the Riverside Silk Mill is excellent, and it is an outstanding example of a late nineteenth century, large-scale capitalist venture of the conglomerate textile business model that would explode the industry in the twentieth century.  As described below, its situation in this part of Paterson is in itself unique and introduces the period of rapid development of Paterson's north side (Bunker Hill) dyeing and finishing district in the early twentieth century.

Historic significance, context & association
The Riverside Silk Mill was constructed c1889 by Johnson, Cowdin & Co. for the production of silk ribbons and broad silks during the great boom of Paterson's Silk City period.  By the 1920s, the firm was incorporated as Johnson, Cowdin, Emmerich, Inc. that, in addition to the Riverside Mill, owned and operated mills in other states: the Tremont Mills in New York City (Bronx); Progress Mills in Glendale, New York (Long Island); and the Lady Fair Mills in Norwalk, CT. The firm was primarily involved in thin silk ribbon production is each of these mills, with an overall total of 702 looms. Riverside was the largest of its mills, with a massive scale of over 400 feet long by 45 feet wide is typical of textile mill architecture of this period to accommodate the scale of production and mechanization present during this period. As one of the few remaining mills of this scale in Paterson, it is a significant testament to the success and prowess of Paterson in what perhaps was its greatest period of wealth and production. Its situation along the river at the northern point of the city is also unique in that the few silk manufacturing mills were located in this area, marking Riverside specifically as a conglomerate mill, a large capital investment by Paterson "outsiders" far from the central silk mill district where Paterson's traditional family-named mills were developed, along the Erie Railroad corridor; instead, the surrounding district developed rapidly as Paterson's expansive silk and rayon dyeing and finishing district in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
  

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References

Department of Community Development, "City of Paterson Survey," 1987.

Archimede, Gianfranco, "Paterson Historic Mills Group Municipal Historic Site Designations Staff Opinion of Eligibility," 2012.

Hyde, E. B. Atlas of Passaic County, New Jersey, 1877.

Robinson, E. Atlas of the City of Paterson, New Jersey, 1884

Robinson, E. Atlas of the City of Paterson and Haledon, New Jersey, 1899.

Mueller, A. H. Atlas of the City of Paterson, New Jersey, 1915.

Sanborn Map Company Insurance, Maps of Paterson, New Jersey, 1915.

Sanborn Map Company Insurance, Maps of Paterson, New Jersey, 1931.

Trumbull, L. R. A History of Industrial Paterson, 1882.

The Paterson Daily and Weekly Guardian, "History and Institutions: City of Paterson, N.J." 1895.

Nationwide Environmental Title Research, LLC, "Historic Aerials of Paterson, New Jersey," 2011.



Associated Documents

Maps of Riverside Silk Mill
Additional Photographs of the Riverside Silk Mill
Riverside Silk Mill Site Form

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