Bulletin of the Passaic County Historical Society, May 1962
One of the most colorful figures living in Passaic County more than one hundred years ago was Peter Archdeacon. A native of England, Mr. Archdeacon came to America after the close of the War of 1812 with his wife and three children and settled in the area of the Great Falls. He practiced the shoemaker’s trade, entered into the milk business, and built hand looms for a while.
The country of the falls area in his day was wild, only a handful of farmers have cleared much of the land; Washington’s encampment, within walking distance, had been vacated less than fifty years. Archdeacon loved the great out-of-doors and frequented the wooded areas of the Goffle, Wagaraw, the heights of Totowa, and the several sites where Washington’s army had encamped. From these and other nearby places, Peter Archdeacon collected a vast quantity of relics, minerals, and specimens of natural history. As his collection grew, he conceived the idea of erecting a museum where he might display his “curiosities” as well as interesting collections of which some friends of his possessed.
On April 30, 1833, General Abraham Godwin laid the cornerstone of the Museum Hotel on the northeast corner of Main and Smith Streets, Paterson, and the museum was opened to the public on December 21, 1833. It was a structure of two stories. On the street level was the hotel, while the upper floor housed the museum and theater. A second-floor balcony faced Main Street, which served as a rostrum for public speeches on many occasions before the days of the old Opera House.
The hotel was one of the best in town, and as was the custom in those days, the county Board of Freeholders usually held their meetings in various hotels and taverns through the county. Their meetings in the Museum Hotel were not unusual in 1837 and 1838.
A few days before the official opening of the Archdeacon museum, an advertisement in the daily paper stated in part:
This museum is the only one in the state. A splendid treat is now offered to the lovers of Natural History. To hold the mirror up to Nature, Shall be out only aim. We exhibit a most pleasant Forest Scene, with all its natural decorations – the Panther, Bear, and Deer are seen at large, with other inhabitants of the forest.
The notice went on to state that the other exhibits would follow. Such objects as animals, birds, shells, and other objects would gradually be added to the collection.
The Hotel Museum was to be open every day at 9 o’clock in the morning and would be closed at 5 in the afternoon except on Wednesday and Saturdays, when the closing rime was set at 9 0’clock.
The price of admission was one shilling.
In 1860, the Paterson Daily Register ran the following advertisement:
Monday Eve., July 4, 1860
VALUABLE HOTEL PROPERTY FOR SALE
or to hire
at Paterson, N. J.
The undersigned, being about to retire from business, offers for sale or to hire, that well known, commodious and long-established Hotel and Tavern known as the “Museum Hotel, situated on Main Street in the City of Paterson, N.J. with the adjoining lot, 125 feet long, containing stable, sheds, etc.
This hotel being located in the most eligible part of the city, amply furnished and fitted up in the most elegant style, regardless of expense, is well worth the attention of any active and enterprising person in the business, etc.
The whole of the above desirable, and valuable property will be disposed of on reasonable terms. Every information respecting the same can be obtained of the proprietor.
The property was disposed of, but Mr. Archdeacon had only three years to enjoy retirement for he passed to the Great Beyond on May 21, 1863, at the age of 87 years.