Washington Dye

Architectural Description

This interconnected industrial complex, originally a silk mill and silk dye works, developed within its current footprint between 1880 and 1900 as a series of attached buildings and workspaces. Today, the principal visible facades are on the north side of Warren Street and the south side of Putnam Street, with the interior spaces and the east and west elevations inaccessible due to adjacent development and infill. This form describes the two facades, working west to east along Warren and Putnam Streets. A chronology of development is based on atlas maps dating from the late 1870s to early 1930s.

At the west end of the Warren Street façade is a 1-story, 13-bay, monitor-roofed brick building that was built between 1900 and 1914 as a dye house. Most windows on this and all subsequently described elevations have segmentally arched lintels and stone sills. Window openings have been uniformly infilled with stucco with loss of original frames and sashes. There are also numerous modern rolling metal loading bay doors added at ground level.

Abutting the east end of the previously mentioned dye house is a 3-story, 5-bay brick mill that represents the earliest section of the complex, built in 1880 as a silk mill. It has segmentally arched windows with stone sills with the center bay occupied by mill doors and a hoist. The next section to the east is a 3-story, 9-bay, side-gabled brick mill that was built between 1889 and 1899 for weaving and winding of silk. It has a corbelled cornice and segmentally arched windows. Preceding eastward, the next 3-story, 4-bay, front gabled mill was built between 1889 and 1899 for weaving of silk. Finally, at the eastern end of the façade is a 3-story, 13-bay, brick mill with an ell-shaped plan forming a courtyard off of Warren Street. Within the courtyard is a loading dock with canopy. This mill was built between 1889 and 1899 for weaving and "card cutting," probably referring to the design and punching of jacquard loom cards.

 Moving to the west end of the Putnam Street façade at the corner of Putnam and River Streets is a 2-story, 4-bay, side-gabled building that was the office, which included housed vaults for storing the of silk. Moving eastward from the office is a 3-story, 4-bay, front-gabled mill with overhanging eave that is the north end of the original 1880 Ashley and Bailey silk mill. Continuing eastward is a 2-story, 6-bay, side-gabled building that was built between 1889 and 1899 for finishing and folding. Next to the east is a 1-story, 3- bay brick building with stepped parapet, built between 1900 and 1915 as a machine shop. At the east end of the façade is a 3-story, 3-bay, front-gabled building that is the north end of the  silk mill built between 1889 and 1899 for weaving.


The complex, now commonly known as the Washington Piece Dye Works, was historically the Ashley & Bailey Silk Mill, established in 1880 and closed about 1915 before being taken over by the Washington Piece Dye Works and a number of other smaller tenants. Peter Bailey, a native of Macclesfield, England, became involved in the silk industry as a boy and when he immigrated to Paterson, working for John Ryle, a man commonly known as the father of Paterson's silk industry. Bailey partnered with Dwight Ashley in 1873, with each man working a loom from a small room on Straight Street. As they increased their business, the partners relocated within Paterson several times before settling on a site on Warren Street near the River Street crossing of the Erie Railroad. There in 1880, they constructed a mill powered from an engine disconnected from the building, but still within the mill property. Shortly after Ashley & Bailey occupied their new mill, a tornado unroofed the building and caused significant damage to the walls. Undeterred, however, Ashley & Bailey quickly repaired the damaged and began adding to the mill complex. The Ashley & Bailey mill was constructed purely for the weaving of goods, with other silk manufacturing processes, i.e. the throwing of silk, carried out at their Fort Plain, N.Y. mill. By 1881 200 employees operated over 30 looms and saw to other tasks about the mill. They also built a silk mill in Marietta, Pa. in 1897, and in West York, Pa. in 1899, and had opened a mill in North Carolina by 1904. The mill at Warren and Putnam Street in Paterson caught fire in 1904 and was nearly destroyed with the exception of the ribbon-weaving department. The extent of the damage is not known, but it appears from historic maps that the footprints of the older mills were retained, suggesting that at a minimum the masonry shells were reused.

Silk weavers struck the Ashley & Bailey mill in 1913, ranking among their grievances the outsourcing work to cheaper labor markets in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Following the strike, Ashley & Bailey appears to have determined to close its Paterson mill. In 1915, the mill was listed as closed and partially disassembled with a number of the buildings labeled as "machine storage." This suggests that Ashley & Bailey was planning to remove looms and dyeing equipment, probably from Paterson to another mill. By 1915, the two easternmost buildings in the complex had already been leased out or sold to the Argola Silk Company.

About 1918, the Washington Piece Dyeing & Finishing Company occupied the western part of the former Ashley & Bailey plant. Washington was chiefly owned by Herman Geller, a German immigrant, who carried out a general trade in silk dyeing and finishing. There were some improvements made to the works, chiefly in the construction of the monitor-roofed dye houses at the western end of the works. In the 1920s, Geller also opened another plant at the intersection of 1st and Madison Avenues. Washington continued in operation at least until the early 1930s.

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"Fire Destroys Silk Mill." New York Times, Jan. 31 1904.

"Ashley & Bailey Silk Mill, West York, Pa. National Register Nomination," 2010.

Nelson, William History of Bergen and Passaic Counties, New Jersey, 1882.

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

Scranton, Philip Silk City, 1987.

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, 1887.

Sanborn Map Company Insurance, Maps of Paterson, New Jersey, 1899.

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

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

Associated Documents

Washington Silk & Dye Site Form
Additional Photographs of Washington Silk & Dye
Maps of Washington Silk & Dye