Hinchliffe Stadium Named a National Landmark
Monday, March 11, 2013 • 12:46pm
PATERSON, NJ - The nation’s list of historic landmarks includes such prominent locations as Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, Paul Revere’s House in Massachusetts and Rockefeller Center in Manhattan.
Now Paterson’s Hinchliffe Stadium stands along them.
Federal officials on Monday announced that Hinchliffe was among 13 sites added to the national’s inventory of landmark, a prestigious designation only surpassed by national monuments.
“I’m ecstatic,’’ said Kenneth Simpson, vice chairman of Paterson’s Historic Preservation Commission. “It puts Paterson in a positive light and we need positive news right now. It speaks volumes about the history of our city.’’
But Mayor Jeffrey Jones said he had concerns about the designation because federal officials never contacted city government about the decision. Jones sees the renovation of Hinchliffe as crucial to his plans for making Paterson into a tourist destination. But he said the federal government has not made it clear to him whether the landmark status is in Paterson’s best interests.
“This is something that they decided without the city being consulted and engaged in that decision,’’ said Jones. “That worries me.’’
Hinchliffe, which is one of three stadiums used during the segregation-era Negro baseball leagues that still exist, is owned by Paterson Public Schools. It was built in the 1930s and was used to host Paterson’s high school football games for generations. But it fell into such severe disrepair in the latter part of the 20th century that officials shut it down more than 15 years ago. The city recently approved a $1.1 million to stabilize the stadium to try to prevent it from falling apart.
Although Hinchliffe has been received national and state historic designations, it has not been added to the city’s list of landmarks. That’s because Board of Education members have opposed the designation, saying they feared historic status would drive up the costs and complicate efforts to renovate the stadium so it can be used for local recreation again.
In fact, the school board and city historic commission are holding a joint meeting about the issue on Mon., March 11 at 6:30 pm at the Hamilton Club on Church Street.
There also have been some discussions about adding Hinchliffe to the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, a move that would require approval by Congress.
[Editor's note: The following input from local offcials has been added to this story after the original version was posted.]
City Council President Anthony Davis, who played football for Kennedy High School at Hinchliffe, called the national landmark designation "a great thing.''
"I'm in favor of anything that's going to help promote it,'' Davis said. "We have to start thinking out of the box for ways that we can get revenue for this."
Paterson Historic Preservation Commission Chairman Martin Feitlowitz said the designation may help local officials find benefactors willing to cover the costs of repairing the stadium. "It's great to be able to say you're seeking funds for a national historic landmark that you want to restore and put back into use.''
Feitlowitz said the landmark status added prestige to Hinchliffe's credentials. "It's not something that gets given lightly,'' he said. "It's not something that gets rubber stamped.''
The press release issued by United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Director of the National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said, “Hinchliffe Stadium is an exceptional example of a Negro league baseball stadium in 20th-century segregated America. The stadium served as home field for teams such as the New York Black Yankees and the New York Cubans during a period when the institutionalized practice of “separate but equal” facilities was the accepted norm. Eleven current members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame played at Hinchliffe Stadium.”
“These national historic landmark designations span more than two centuries of our country’s history, from 17th century architecture to a Civil War battlefield to a 19th century-Kentucky whiskey distillery that continued to operate through the Prohibition era,” Secretary Salazar said. “Today’s designations include significant sites that help tell the story of America and the contributions that all people from all walks of life have made as we strive for a more perfect union.”
“From the Civil War to civil rights, to the struggles and accomplishments of women, African Americans and Latinos, these sites highlight the mosaic of our nation’s historic past,” said Jarvis. “We are proud to administer the National Historic Landmarks Program to educate and inspire Americans through their country’s rich and complex history.”
At present, there are more than 2,500 national landmarks, including 57 in New Jersey. The other three in Passaic County are the Botto House in Haledon, Ringwood Manor and the Great Falls/ Society for Establishing Useful Manufacturers building in Paterson.
The federal press release described the other new national historic landmarks:
Camden Amphitheatre and Public Library, Camden, Maine. The Camden Amphitheatre and Public Library is one of the few public projects of Fletcher Steele, one of America’s premier practitioners of 20th-century landscape design. It is an outstanding representation of the contributions made by the landscape architecture profession, private benefactors, and national associations to develop public landscapes in the United States that celebrated natural regional beauty, scenic character, and rich cultural history.
Camp Nelson Historic and Archeological District, Jessamine County, Ky. One of the nation’s largest recruitment and training centers for African American soldiers during the American Civil War, Camp Nelson is also significant as the site of a large refugee camp for the wives and children of the soldiers who were escaping slavery and seeking freedom.
Casa Dra. Concha Meléndez Ramírez, San Juan, Puerto Rico. This was the residence and workspace of Dra. Concha Meléndez Ramírez, a prolific and prominent literary criticism voice in Generación del Treinta (Generation of 1930), a literary movement that shaped Puerto Rico’s 20th-century national cultural identity.
Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Ala. On March 7, 1965, civil rights marchers drawing attention to the need for voting rights legislation were attacked by law enforcement officials as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The attack, which came to be known as “Bloody Sunday,” contributed to the introduction and passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, considered to be the single most effective piece of civil rightslegislation ever passed by the US Congress.
The Epic of American Civilization Murals, Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H. These murals are the most important work in the United States by muralist José Clemente Orozco, one of Mexico’s foremost mural artists of the early 20th century. Orozco conceived the murals as a representation of a North American continent characterized by the duality of indigenous and European historical experiences. Though highly controversial in their day, the murals challenged traditional ways of thinking about the development of Aztec and Anglo-American civilizations in North America.
George T. Stagg Distillery, Franklin County, Ky. With resources dating from approximately 1880 to 1953, the George T. Stagg Distillery is a rare, intact example of an operating distillery before, during and after Prohibition. It provides an unparalleled opportunity to study at one site the evolution of buildings and technology associated with the American whiskey industry.
Harriet Beecher Stowe House, Hartford, Conn. Though best known to modern audiences for her antislavery work, Harriet Beecher Stowe was widely recognized in her lifetime as a highly prolific and nationally significant reformer for a wide variety of causes. Her longtime home in Hartford is associated with Stowe’s later career as a reformer on issues relating to the family and women’s roles.
Honey Springs Battlefield, McIntosh and Muskogee Counties, Okla. By far the largest Civil War engagement of the 1861-1865 period of conflict within Indian Territory, the Battle of Honey Springs was the largest battle in Indian Territory in which Native Americans fought as members of both Union and Confederate armies. It is also significant as the first and largest engagement in which Indian troops of both sides fought in the formalized style of Anglo-American warfare.
Old San Juan Historic District/Distrito Histórico del Viejo San Juan, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Old San Juan is the only existing representation of an almost 400-year-old Spanish Colonial city in the United States, and contains the largest collection of buildings representing four centuries of Spanish culture, religion, politics, and architecture. It is the oldest city within the United States and its territories, and the district includes the oldest house, Christian church, executive mansion, convent, and military defenses in the country as well.
Pear Valley, Eastville, Va. Dating to 1740, the wood-frame house known as Pear Valley is an excellent, rare surviving example of the distinctive form of architecture that developed in the Chesapeake Bay region, illustrating how early settlers in the colonies adapted to their new environment.
Second Presbyterian Church, Chicago, Ill. The Second Presbyterian Church represents the visual and philosophical precepts of the turn of the century Arts and Crafts design movement. Its interior, the masterwork of noted architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, presents some of the finest examples of Arts and Crafts mural painting, sculpture, stained glass and crafting in metals, fabrics, wood and plaster.
Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. One of the country’s oldest artists’ retreats, Yaddo has hosted more than 6,000 influential writers, visual artists and composers who shaped and imprinted American culture with a distinct national identity in the 20th century. Among the notable artists who have worked at Yaddo are Aaron Copland, Truman Capote, Leonard Bernstein, Flannery O’Connor, Sylvia Plath and Langston Hughes.
The National Historic Landmarks Program, established in 1935, is administered by the National Park Service on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior. The agency works with preservation officials and other partners interested in nominating a landmark. Completed applications are reviewed by the National Park System Advisory Board, which makes recommendations for designation to the Secretary of the Interior. If selected, property ownership remains intact but each site receives a designation letter, a plaque, and technical preservation advice.
Additional information on the designations can be found at www.nps.gov/history/nhl.