Cooke locomotive

Architectural Context, Integrity & Significance

The Cooke Locomotive Co. Madison Avenue works is a 1.3-acre site located on the southeast side of Madison Avenue, immediately to the south of the Madison Avenue/Conrail Bridge. It was established and constructed beginning in 1888, dominated by a large, single-story brick machine shop, a free-standing two-story brick office building, and a single-story brick wash house linked to the machine shop at its western end, all consisting of about 20 acres. The remainder of the plant, to the rear, included the foundry, blacksmith shop, power house, erecting shop, paint shop, hammer shop, boiler shop, tank shop, carpenter shop, and small supporting buildings. The site was also developed in the 1920s by Cooke's successor, the American Locomotive Co., with initial expansion including the enlargement of the power house, additions to several buildings, and the construction of a new tank shop. Further expansion was completed circa 1923 with the construction of a large new erecting shop, characterized by an impressive facade of glass curtain walls, and additions to the southern ends of the machine shop and office.

Several structures remain from the initial (1888-90) site development, notably a two-story, three-bay, red brick Office Building and a tall, single story, red brick Machine Shop and a smaller attached Wash House. The Office Building offers elements of architectural interest, such as a brownstone foundation and a flat roof with a narrow metal cornice and brick denticulation. Curved bricks define the corners of the building and windows. Stone lintels and sills frame the original four-paned metal windows on the main elevation; replacement metal windows have been installed at the side elevations. An addition to the eastern elevation of the building, circa 1920s, also features multi-paned metal windows. The former Machine Shop is set perpendicular to the Office Building and parallels Madison Avenue, with the Wash House attached to its western end.

The Machine Shop has a raised monitor roof clad with plywood and a gabled front façade. The roofline of the Machine Shop is defined by brick corbelling, evident prominently along Madison Ave. Its windows are arched, although some openings have been filled. The Machine Shop witnessed several additions circa 1923 at the western and southern elevations.

The Wash House is a one-story, brick building, three bays in width, with a gabled roof and, like the Machine Shop, features brick corbelling at the roofline. The Machine Shop and Wash House have undergone some alteration in recent years, in particular the replacement and/or filling of original windows.


The rest of the historic Cooke site footprint outside of this parcel has been subdivided, razed and replaced over the decades with large-scale industrial steel frame and skin warehouse-type buildings, in association with Wright Aeronautical Corp. expansion needs to accommodate war time production in the 1940s, and again later after 1948 with the reuse of that portion of the site by the Continental Can Co. of New York City. With respect to integrity of the Cooke Locomotive Works overall, the integrity of the remaining portion of the historic complex is clearly evident in the comparison of current conditions with historic maps and photographs. It is important to further note that the majority of the original Cooke site located on Market Street in the Great Falls Historic District, opposite the Rogers Locomotive Works, was lost to an arson fire in 1975. The remaining building on that site was the Cooke Administration Building (1881), which was rehabilitated recently and is in use again after almost being lost to demolition by neglect. The Madison Avenue site therefore stands intact to represent the last remaining buildings of the Cooke Locomotive Co. in their proper context and their integrity is excellent.

Historic Significance, Context & Association

The Cooke Locomotive and Machine Company was and came to occupy a place among the leading manufacturers of locomotives in Paterson and the United States, often touted as second in the great Paterson triumvirate of locomotive manufacturers: the Rogers, Cooke and Grant Locomotive works, listed respectively by size and prominence.  The development patterns of these businesses is rather complex in that the industrialists were often partnered with each other at different points during their period of intensive development between the 1840s and 1880s, and shared development of sites and technologies until either a death or other event caused for a reorganization of corporate players, leadership and capital. Such is the case with John Cooke, who came to Paterson from his native Montreal, Canada and became involved with Charles Danforth and others in the Danforth Locomotive Co. formed in 1865. Cooke succeeded to the presidency of that company in 1871, a few years before Danforth's death in 1875. John Cooke's administration of the business rapidly increased its capacities. His tenure was brief, however, for John Cooke died in 1882, which again provided an opportunity for the business to be reorganized as the Cooke Locomotive and Machine Co. by his three sons John, Frederick and Charles.

The demand for locomotives at this period of American western expansion was tremendous and unprecedented, leading to the inability of Paterson's manufacturers to meet orders for a lack of space in the Spruce Street locomotive district, which was already fifty years old by the 1880s. The Rogers works, for example, burned several times in the early 1870s and was rebuilt vertically because horizontal space for expansion to meet demand was no longer available. Since there was no longer a critical need to be near sources of water for power by the 1880s due to an abundance of coal and steam power systems, a profound shift occurred in the primacy of transportation accessibility (railroads for coal receiving and shipping goods to far away markets) rather than water power accessibility. The development of new industrial districts and sites was now occurring in this fashion across the country, as the scale of production, technological development and accessibility to work force and urban labor centers were demands of a major period of economic boom.


These factors lead to Cooke Locomotive's purchase of several parcels of land adjacent to the New York, Lake Erie and Western Railroad line in 1888, marking the initial development on the southeastern side of Madison Avenue along the tracks. The intention was to relocate their plant from Paterson's central industrial district to this new site with additional space for expansion and more efficient operations with direct rail connections. The company was sold to the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) in 1901, and Fredrick Cooke remained manager until his resignation in 1914.


Under ALCO, certain modifications and additions to site occurred by 1923 that can be characterized as an effort to expand the site's capacity to build locomotives rather than to raze the original configuration in order to reduce capacity or to change its use. Soon thereafter, however, ALCO was in receivership and the site remained idle until its next development phase, when it was briefly purchased by the fast-developing Wright Aeronautical Corp. in 1928. The portion of the ALCO site that is under considered for designation was sold to the developing Morrison Machine Company in 1929, while the remainder and bulk of the Cooke site was later reconfigured by Wright primarily to accommodate its WWII expansion in the 1940s.  After the war, with a dramatic drop in demand, Wright sold its portion of the Cooke site to the Continental Can Corp. in 1948, while the north end of the site remained intact with continued operation since 1929 of the Morrison Machine Co.

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Hunter Research, Inc. "Cultural Resource Investigations of the Allied Textile Printing Site, Paterson NJ. Volume 1. Factories Below the Falls," 2010.

Shriner, Charles A Paterson, "N.J. It's Advantages for Manufacturing etc.," 1890.

Hyde, E. B. Atlas of Passaic County, N.J. 1877.

Robinson, E. Atlas of the City of Paterson, N.J. 1884.

Robinson, E. Atlas of the City of Paterson and Haledon, N.J. 1899.

Mueller, A. H. Atlas of the City of Paterson, N.J. 1915.

Sanborn Map Company Insurance Maps of Paterson, N.J. 1915.

Sanborn Map Co., Fire Insurance Maps of Paterson, N.J. 1887.

Sanborn Map Co., Fire Insurance Maps of Paterson, N.J. 1899.

Sanborn Map Co., Insurance Maps of Paterson, N.J. 1931.

Associated Documents

Cooke Locomotive Site Form
Additional Photographs of Cooke Locomotive
Maps of Cooke Locomotive