PATERSON, NJ - In a city of immigrants, it is, perhaps, Alexander Hamilton’s chase of the American Dream, started even before there was an America, that had the greatest impact on Paterson’s development.

Born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, Hamilton, recognized at a young age for his genius, was sent to New Jersey as a teen for his education. He’d go on to become a key player in General George Washington’s Continental Army, giving birth to a nation that declared independence from England in 1776.

His Federalist Papers formed much of the foundation for the US Constitution, the document that guides our country to this day, and it was with his leadership that much of the new nation’s banking system was established.

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More locally, it was his vision for creating America’s first industrial city that, as Mayor Andre Sayegh has said many times, “set the stage for Paterson,” and the reason that Sayegh and other local leaders gathered Friday, the day before the Hamilton's birthday, to unveil a mural of the statesman overlooking the Paterson Great Falls.

Just yards from the base of the Great Falls, where Hamilton first laid out his vision for a great city, one that would rise as one of America’s most important, his oversized likeness will now look over the site, perhaps keeping an eye on the progress of the city’s much anticipated renaissance.

“Without his birth, Paterson wouldn't have been born,” Mayor Andre Sayegh said. “We celebrate our visionary founding father and his birthday gift will be our city's rebirth!”

The work was commissioned by the New Jersey Development Corporation (NJCDC) whose Founder and CEO, Bob Guarasci, said that it is a tribute to a man who first “saw potential for greatness,” in the area.

“Those of us committed to Paterson still see that greatness,” Guarasci continued.

This is the second mural commissioned by the NJCDC, the first sitting adjacent to it, bearing the likeness of Larry Doby and celebrating the race-barrier breaking ballplayer’s accomplishments. Like the one of Hamilton, Doby’s also provides a hopeful look into Paterson’s future, one that includes the coming renovation of the historic Hinchliffe Stadium.

Guarasci said the works, designed by local artist David Thompson, whose creativity and vision adorns walls and spaces across the city, is an example of creative placemaking.

While an online definition of creative placemaking says that the concept is one that “leverages the power of the arts, culture, and creativity to drive an agenda for change, growth, and transformation,” Guarasci summed up the reason his organization is using it in their own efforts to bring new life to the 95 block area that make up the Great Falls Promise Neighborhood.

“We want visitors and residents to know who the individuals are that made Paterson great,” Guarasci said. By bringing my then back to life through art, he concluded, “we hope to draw on their characteristics and accomplishments to move us forward.”

 

* edited from original version to reflect Hamilton's birthplace and move to New Jersey as a teen.

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