William Strange

Architectural Context, Integrity & Significance

The 1.83-acre property of the former William Strange Silk Company occupies the entire block defined by Madison Street on the west, Morton Street on the north, Beech Street on the east and Essex Street on the south. The complex represents a period of development of about a decade, between 1874 and 1883. The first portion of the complex was an existing mill of the American Velvet Co., a U-shaped site situated on the south end along Essex Street between Madison and Beech Streets. William Strange purchased this mill and occupied it with is ribbon machinery in 1874. Thereafter, by 1880 Strange expanded the complex along the length of Beech Street and closed the existing U-shaped complex to that of a square with a central courtyard.   In 1883 the final expansion filled the remaining space on the north side with an L-shaped mill expansion along Morton and Madison Streets.

The 3½/four story brick mill buildings of the Strange complex are characterized by segmental arched window bays divided by pilaster styled buttresses. Differing roof heights and corbelling details throughout delineate the different expansion periods. The complex is ultimately a handsome example of utilitarian mill construction of the Silk City boom era in Paterson that has been disappearing over recent decades. The buildings boast the scale and prominence of the historic silk industry and its owners through intricate brickwork embellishments that are notable on all façades.

With respect to integrity of the William Strange mill complex overall, excellent integrity is clearly evident in the comparison of current conditions with historic maps and photographs with respect to the complex's historic massing and site features. Consistent with the general trend in reuse interest in complexes of this character across the region and in Paterson since the decline and closing of the textile trades especially post-war, the complex experienced some physical changes over the last several decades. While some moderate, inappropriate reversible and non-reversible changes were made to some of the building's entrances and fenestration over the years to accommodate reuse, it retains a high degree of its historic integrity since it has "not been seriously disfigured or compromised [at the time of consideration] by irreversible and inappropriate alterations." Overall, given the mills' scale, architectural qualities and feeling of historic association, are not overwhelmed by the alterations made to date.

Historic significance, context & association
According to Shriner (1919), William Strange is one of Paterson's triumvirate to which much of the success of the Paterson silk industry is attributed, the other two giants being John Ryle and Catholina Lambert.  Though of English birth, he and his father immigrated and settled in New York City as early as 1835, and for thirty years engaged in the silk imports and had no interest in entering the manufacturing side of the trade.  Given a difficulty in obtaining exact color for ribbons, in 1863 they experimented with a small shop of forty looms in Williamsburgh in order to experiment with a product that their clients were looking for.  Shortly thereafter, the close of the Civil War also brought an extraordinary tariff on silk imports, hurting their long-time business, and causing them to look more seriously into the manufacturing side that they had already begun.

With these developments, William Strange moved his machinery from WIlliamsburgh to Paterson, and rented space in the Greppo Mill on Slater and Dale Avenues. By 1874 Strange could not keep up with orders and demand, and purchased the American Velvet Co. mill on Essex and Madison Streets. From there, the business expanded exponentially, and by 1878 the mills had been added and joined to a point of spanning the entire space of over 200 feet between Essex and Madison Streets, and also half way along Beech St. in 1883, another three-story, 200-foot mill addition was added along Beech St. to complete the configuration of a square layout with a center courtyard in which was situated the boiler and engines. Shriner reports that by 1890, the mill was manned by 800 workers.

William Strange enjoyed massive success in his business, and further expanded his international notoriety in the manufacturing side of the silk trade by being very active as President of the Silk Association of America for many years throughout the 1880-90s. He also was active in Paterson politics, serving as President of the Board of Trade and also on the Parks Commission establishing Paterson's public parks during the 1890s. William Strange died in 1899, after which his estate disposed of the silk machinery, but kept the buildings.

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Guzzo, Dorothy P. "William Strange Mills SHPO Opinion," 1999.

Hunter Research, Inc, "Phase IA Archaeological Investigation: Proposed Hope VI Public Housing (Beech Street), City of Paterson, Passaic County, New Jersey," 1999.

News Golden Issue, "One of Paterson's First Major Silk Factories," 1940.

Shriner, Charles A. Paterson, New Jersey, 1890.

Heusser, Albert H. The History of the Silk Dyeing Industry in the United States, 1927.

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.

Sanborn Map Company Insurance, Maps of Paterson, New Jersey, 1950.

Associated Documents

William Strange Mill Site Form
Additional Photographs of William Strange Mill
Maps of William Strange Mill