Eastside Park: A Contribution to the Nineteenth Century Parks Movement

A Brief History of Eastside Park, Paterson, NJ

Former Civil War Colonel Andrew Derrom purchased undeveloped lands on the east side of Paterson and upon which he constructed a home and club house c.1880. Soon thereafter in 1881, H.B. Crosby, a Paterson industrialist serving on the Board of Trade, introduced the idea of establishing a public parks system for Paterson. It was not until 1888, however, that this vision was firmly adopted by the passage of a park ordinance authorizing purchase of lands on the east and west sides of the city. Colonel Derrom’s and Charles E. Van Buren’s lands were a part of the 66-acre, $75,000 purchase that became Eastside Park. The New Jersey legislature approved the establishment of a Parks Commission in Paterson in 1889 to which a seven members were appointed, including Crosby.  Although these were established and Crosby given the title of “father of Paterson parks,” it was not until almost a decade later in 1899 that Eastside Park was formally designed by John Y. Culyer, a landscape architect from New York City who also was a commissioner on the Paterson Parks Commission. Culyer was assistant engineer in both the Central and Prospect parks projects (both F.L. Olmsted designs), Superintendent of Brooklyn Parks, and designer of other public parks in Chicago and Albany, for example. His contemporary works and connection to prominent landscape architect Olmstead (who won the competition for Westside Park, coincidentally) places Culyer squarely in the limelight of the civic landscape design of the City Beautiful movement, sweeping the nation at the time. Eastside Park soon thereafter became the catalyst and anchor for the rapid development of Paterson’s east side neighborhood, now an historic district composed of not less than 500 structures, reflective of architectural styles of the first half of the twentieth century.  Close scrutiny of 1899 and 1915 maps illustrate preliminary and modified designs of Eastside Park, which included several additions, including the stable, pavilion, arbors, and a club house, to name a few. As part of the park’s design, Colonel Derrom’s residence was demolished sometime after 1900, and the stable and pavilion were likely constructed shortly thereafter and have remained permanent amenities, unlike other features added at the time that have been removed or destroyed since. While the park at large maintains its historic boundaries and general design layout, all of its gardens, most of its pathways and structural elements are gone. While the stable and its adjacent counterpart, the pavilion, have been modified or are not entirely intact, they are among the few architectural representatives of what survives the turn-of-the-century design.

compiled by sources by G. Archimede

Tour I gave last fall on the both Paterson parks.

Tour I gave last fall on the both Paterson parks.

A short guided tour of Eastside Park….

Eastside Park was purchased by the City of Paterson in March of 1888 for $75,000. The sum of land purchased was about 66 ½ acres. This tract included the lands of two families, the Van Burens and the Derroms. Today the park only consists of 55 acres.

The construction of Eastside Park along with its sister Westside Park is unique. A design competition was held to decide how each park would be laid out. The two most notable planners who submitted designs for both parks were John Y. Culyer and Frederick Law Olmstead. Culyer won first place for Eastside Park and Olmstead won first place for Westside Park. Although John Culyer’s plans were accepted for Eastside, his plans were based on a development cost of about $135,000. Unfortunately his plans were altered considerably between 1899 and 1912.

Culyer began his career as a landscape engineer in Central Park, under Frederick Law Olmsted. So when both Olmstead and Cuyver won the design competition there were no hard feelings between the two, as Culyer worked under Olmstead for quite some time stylizing in the pastoral and picturesque. The pastoral style featured vast expanses of green with small lakes, trees and groves and produced a soothing, restorative effect on the viewer. The picturesque style covered rocky, broken terrain with teeming shrubs and creepers and struck the viewer with a sense of nature’s richness. Culyer and Olmstead’s ideas for the most part were in sync. Culyer was known for his design of a tree-moving machine. This machined was invented after he was hired as one of the original engineers of Prospect Park. His invention later advanced him to Chief Engineer and head of the Brooklyn’s Parks Department. The tree moving machine did exactly as its name intended. Park designers were able to move trees from one spot to another like chess pieces. They also were able to import trees of a much larger size which gave way from the standard nursery trip. Rather they were able to collect trees from private grounds.

John Culyer's tree moving machine, late nineteenth century.

John Culyer’s tree moving machine, late nineteenth century.

Culyer’s design for Eastside Park was to incorporate the outer structures and add several more such as an arbor, picnic shelter, boating platform, lake house, and a clubhouse. In 1899 the maps show that the park was divided into several fields for this purpose. There existed picnic grounds, tennis and croquet grounds, and places for field games. The buildings that were here included the Derrom house, a pavilion, the superintendents house (which is the Van Buren House), a club house, picnic shelter, lake house, and boating platform. All the outer structures Culyer envisioned were made possible. His park was highly naturalist and picturesque with circular paths and two walkways with floral areas. Carriage roads were lined with maples trees, oaks at the northwest end, and linden trees at the northeast end. The trees were planted to create a rhythmic effect but give a pastoral setting.

As briefly mentioned Culyer’s design did not maintain its integrity for long. It was decided amongst the parks commission to alter some of the landscape to fit a more formal design for the park, which was Olmstead’s chief design for the park originally. Although Olmstead died in 1903, his legacy was incorporated into Eastside with the replacement of the naturalistic setting with intricate walkways of cobblestone and gravel laid out in organic fashion and more formal landscape designs. A carousel, music stand, deer paddock, and athletic field were also added into the park by 1915.

Frederick Law Olmstead

Frederick Law Olmstead

Olmstead believed firmly in community health and that landscape architecture has a role in making society a better place, so these public spaces were essential for the social well-being of society. Olmsted’s principles of design, generally speaking, encouraged the full utilization of the naturally occurring features of a given space. Decorative elements in this case did not take precedence, but rather the space as a whole. Olmstead’s theory did not let the overall design call attention to itself. The secret was the concealment of design to produce relaxation. A bridge, a pathway, a tree, a pasture: any and all elements are brought together to produce a particular effect. The scenery was designed to enhance the sense of space by using plants, brush, and trees along with the interplay of light and shadows. Light and shade lent the landscape a sense of mystery.

Memorials & Monuments: The character and cultural landscape marks of a city are built slowly and measured in terms of generations rather than years. Paterson (itself 221 years old) the past century has witnessed a quantity of memorials, monuments, and community sites and plazas erected the people themselves as a permanent manifestation of the rapid growth of an appreciation of beauty and tribute to civic leadership. Looking back on the activity of Paterson’s citizens, most can conclude that in the first hundred years of Paterson’s history were entrenched with the necessities of life in the form of factories. After 1890 these people took time out to add the artistic and cultural embellishments that distinguish this city. While war memorials tended to dominate the memorial landscape there has been no set pattern in the establishment of park monuments. Such as we will see with the Alice Weight memorial Fountain, which has no historical significance.

  1. Alice Weight Memorial Fountain: The fountain was erected in 1916 to stand as a beautiful ornament in the park without any significance. The fountain is of an elaborate Italian renaissance inspired piece. The large shell-motif bowl is mounted on a quadripartite pedestal made up of baroque inspired brackets with foliate decoration. A circular concrete base is interspersed with marble sections and a contemporary decorative wrought iron fence surrounds this plaza. The fountain was given by Mary H. Weight from New York City.
  2. Charles Curie Monument: The Charles Curie Monument was designed by George Thomas Brewster. The bronze bust rests on a neo-classical granite pedestal. It was erected in 1913. Charles Curie was a dedicated lawyer and local war hero. He was a captain in the Civil War.
  3. Civil War Monument, Eastside Park, taken October 2013

    Civil War Monument, Eastside Park, taken October 2013

    Civil War Monument: The Civil War monument, also known as the soldiers and sailors monument was replicated in Eastside Park in 1922 by Gaetano Federici. The original monument was constructed on Monuments Heights in 1870. This monument consists of an Egyptian-revival obelisk on a classical revival base which is surmounted by a statue of a Union Soldier. The four-sided object has bronze plaques on each face. The overall monument is surrounded by four bronze Confederate civil war cannons on granite blocks. Hundreds of thousands of these cannons were decommissioned as outdated equipment by the government during the 1870s – 1920s periods. They are smooth bore (not rifled) and were out of use by the second year of the civil war. These obsolete cannons were given to many towns and veteran’s groups as ornaments for military monuments and later considered scrap and a large number were melted down during the First and Second World Wars.

  4. Pulaski Monument

    Pulaski Monument

    Pulaski Monument: The Pulaski monument in Eastside Park was commissioned by the Americans of Polish Descent group. The bust of Pulaski was to represent Polish heritage, as Pulaski was a Polish nobleman who helped secure American independence. Known as Count Kasimierz Pulaski, he was a general fighting in the American Revolution. His statue was made for the 150th anniversary of Pulaski’s death. It was dedicated in 1929 and made by Gaetano Federici. The bronze statue rests on a granite pedestal, however the base was replaced in 2000 and another inscription was added to memorialize soldiers from World War II. Federici did a considerable amount of research on both Pulaski as a historical figure and the uniform depicted in the sculpture. Most of the inspiration came from a bronze statue of Pulaski in Washington DC, painted portraits of Pulaski and his sister Anne in Philadelphia, and engravings by Hall and Olzesynski in the NY Public Library. Federici also studied the texture of the cloth used during the revolutionary war to depict Pulaski’s clothing accurately. Federici considered his Pulaski statue one of the work of which he was most proud.

Park’s Structures:

  1. Van Buren House

    Van Buren House

    The Van Buren house or as we have nicknamed it the White house, was the home of Charles E. Van Buren. This 1860s farm-house predates the establishment of this public park in the 1890s, and is among the first and oldest structures. The home was constructed circa 867-1868 in the then popular Greek revival style of architecture. Greek revival began in the US in the 1830s. It was an expressive way to show democratic ideals and that America was the spiritual successor of Ancient Greece. Key distinguishing elements of this style are the Greek temple fronts of buildings, columns, and pilasters. Other features would include heavy cornices, horizontal transoms above the entrance, simple moldings on the exterior and interior, and painted white. The Van Buren home is a two-story 5 bay rectangular wood frame plan. It has a hip-roofed porch. The Van Buren family occupied the house until 1888 when the property was purchased by the City of Paterson to become part of what is now Eastside Park. Instead of demolishing the stately home it served for a number of years as the Park Superintendent’s residence, and was later used as office space for the City of Paterson Department of Parks.

  2. The band stand is hexagonal in shape and inspired by the Arts & Crafts movement. It’s an open air structure with triangular brackets, random rubble walls, and concrete railings. Under designer William Morris the Arts and Crafts movement originated in England. It came about during the early part of the twentieth century 1905 – 1930. The approach for the arts and crafts style was a reaction against both the excesses of the Victorian period and the plainness inherent in the designs of the industrial revolution. It was specially designed to reestablish the importance of handmade over mass production. The band stand was constructed relatively the same time (turn of the century), as the Women’s comfort station. Their designs are similar. Products of the Arts and Crafts style can be recognized by the structures compact plan, low gable or hipped roofs, exposed rafters at the eaves and a large front porch. Materials used are supposed to be earthly in nature, so the used of warm tone tiles and stone are commonly represented. Sundays were a popular day for the park. A large crowd from Paterson and neighboring towns would be in attendance for concerts held. As much as 5,000 people would be here. About twenty concerts were given in a season.
  3. Cricket Clubhouse

    Cricket Clubhouse

    Cricket Club House: The cricket club house in the City of Paterson’s Eastside Park is one of five historic structures remaining in the park. The club house, however, has for years been vacant. Although vacant, the club house represents a large part of sports history here in Paterson. Cricket was a highly popular sport in Paterson was played continuously between 1850s -1930s. Two early Paterson cricket teams were organized as part of the New York Cricket Association as early as October of 1853. The Paterson teams played at least thirty matches per season, and frequently played at Prospect Park Parade Grounds in Brooklyn, NY. The Manhattan Cricket Club was the Paterson teams’ biggest rival at the time.   By June of 1893, the Paterson Cricket club began to use the grounds at Washington Park (Eastside Park) which corresponded to the establishment of the Paterson Parks Commission and the beginning of the development of the city’s parks. Eastside Park was a vast improvement compared to the club’s former location. The field was situated in a hollow and the surrounding elevation gave the spectators a splendid view of the game. After the club moved to Eastside Park, in 1894-95 work began on improvements to the cricket grounds on the South Lawn and to expand the park so that baseball could be played as well. Although it is not specifically noted, it is likely that a wood-frame cricket club house structure was also erected at this time as part of the improvements. The Paterson Cricket club was the monetary supporter of these improvements and their upkeep. Unfortunately, on February 3, 1899, the cricket club house caught fire which destroyed all the teams’ equipment. Although the fire was a setback for the cricket club, in August of 1899, the Paterson cricket team beat the Manhattans, their revival team, for the annual championship. There was a large crowd at Eastside Park for the event. In 1900 a “pretty clubhouse was erected on the athletic fields at cost of over $1,000 and fitted with all the necessary comforts for those playing sports” is documented, and it may be assumed that the stone and concrete building that is extant today is indicative.

  4. Women's Comfort Station

    Women’s Comfort Station

    Women’s Comfort Station: In 1892 the Park’s Commission reported that there was a suitable need for a commode and toiler for ladies and children and a place for shelter for the visitors in case of sudden storms. The commission had the old stone carriage house converted into a toilet and shelter at the expense of about $2500. The building was surrounded with a spacious piazza about twenty feet wide. In 1905/1906 the commission felt the old building had done its duty and was in too dangerous of a condition to continue its use, and entirely too small. In 1905 – 1906 a new structure was built, 40ft by 60ft in size. It was two stories with a mansard roof. The building provided a stable with five stall, a haymow, a wagon, tool house, and workshop.

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5 Responses to Eastside Park: A Contribution to the Nineteenth Century Parks Movement

  1. This is a very rich history of the park. Having never been there, it sounds like a good place to walk around and see the different statues and buildings. Who knew that cricket was such a popular sport in the area!

  2. Kelly says:

    Yes. I have been there only a handful of times. I was working on developing a tour and script for this Park. I actually gave my first tour of the park back in October (I posted the flyer as an image). I am planning to offer another tour of this park in June. This assignment pushed me to start the script haha

  3. soothinghands01 says:

    I hope that the city does something with Cricket Club house in Eastside park. The architecture of the parks is fascinating. I agree with Elizabeth, walking around to see the statues and fountains would be interesting. I hope that you are able to put together the walking tour that you want.

  4. This is fascinating information. The history of our parks is not something that many of us think about when we think of history. When you think about it, everything has a history. It is up to us to really dive in and grab topics to discuss. Without this blog post I would have not known about this complex history, nor the monuments in place.

  5. bill bohaboy says:

    watchout for the muggers and drug dealers I lived on Derrom ave which borders the park I wouldn’t get caught dead inside the park

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