Totowa Bridge

Condensed from an article by E. M. Graf,
Passaic County Historical Society Publication, April 1944

Much of what is now (1944) Paterson consisted of a number of brooks, many ponds and a considerable amount of swamp land that has long since disappeared and is hardly ever mentioned in our history books.  It was called the Totowa Bridge section.

The only road through this area was known as the Old York Road or Kings Highway.  It went from Broadway to Mulberry Street, down to the Passaic River and along the river to Bank Street, where there was a small bridge and also a place to ford the river at low water.  Until the Acquackanonk Bridge was built in what is now the city of Passaic, this was the only bridge north of Newark.  After crossing the bridge the road turned left into Totowa and to the right into the Goffle.  From then it went on to the Ringwood Iron Works.

In 1755, Abraham Godwin purchased lot No. 8 of the Bogt or Boght Division.  This piece of land ran from the river along present Broadway to East 18th Street.

Godwin originally built a small house across Bank Street from the well-known Godwin Hotel (later called the Passaic Hotel).  When the house was completed he brought his family from New York.  At this time Indians were still camped on the other side of the river; however, they were very friendly to the settlers.

When Godwin was appointed as agent of the Ringwood Iron Works he bought a large tract of land on the other side of the river.   When the river was too high to ford, the iron could be stored on this tract.  He then built what was later known as the Doremus house on Water Street.  He then built yet another house, which was later known as the Benson house.  The Benson house was demolished in August 1883.

About this time Godwin with others began construction of the old Totowa Dutch Church on the old Totowa road now known as Ryle Avenue.  The church was organized in 1755.   The building was accidentally destroyed by fire in March of 1827.

During the Revolutionary War Godwin declared himself with the colonies and was listed as an enemy of the King.  Although he owned considerable property and several buildings, his New York creditor pressed him for payment.  In order to satisfy his debts, the property was sold to Jacob Van Winkle, a well-known Tory in this area.

Godwin then purchased a half-acre tract from Abraham Van Houten on which he built another home for his family.

Abraham Godwin settled in  Paterson in 1755.  He died and was buried at Fishkill, New York, February 9, 1777.  After the Captain’s death, the widow Godwin kept a tavern at her home.

Jacob Van Winkle died shortly after securing the Godwin property and the property passed down to his son Simeon.  Simeon built a tannery and several small houses on the Broadway side of the tract.

After the Revolutionary War, the property again came into the possession of the Godwin family.  For many years General Abraham Godwin operated a tavern and hotel.  General Godwin, born July 16, 1763, died at Paterson on October 5, 1835.  He was always on hand for the Fourth of July celebrations, to lead the parade or speak at the dinner in honor of our Independence.  His hotel was the place for all meetings of importance in the early days of Paterson.  It was later called the Passaic Hotel.

The largest brook through this area was known as Dunker or Dark Brook.  It emptied into the Passaic River at the foot of Lawrence Street.  A large pond was later made near Market Street.  It was known as Button Mill Pond because of the button mill that was located near the dam.

Another long winding brook was the Dublin Spring Brook that had its source at the large spring at the corner of Oliver and Mill Streets.  Dublin Spring ran through a large section of swampland.

In these early days, all the area between Van Houten and Market Streets was known as Dr. Ellison’s meadow.  Dr. William Ellison was fond of horses and he permitted to freely roam about the meadow.  Dr. Ellison, the first resident doctor of Paterson, was a native of Ireland. He received his medical education at the University of Edinburgh and practiced in Paterson for more than thirty years.  He died August 12, 1829, at age 65.

The Old York Road made a long run around Frog Pond to the Bridge.  The shorter route down lower Main Street was then swamp land.  When the Paterson and Hamburg Turnpike was laid out, its course went through the center of Frog Pond.  The Turnpike was started in 1806.  On two occasions the road completely disappeared under the pond, the bottom of which had from ten to fifteen feet of soft mud.  The pond was finally filled in by 1828.

On October 21, 1794, Peter Colt, superintendent of the S.U.M., reported to the board of directors that an acre of ground had been given to George Scriba to build a hotel according to accepted plans.

On April 24, 1795, it was resolved that Mr. Colt was authorized to sell to the hotel owners the remainder of the square on which the hotel was being erected.  This hotel was located on the corner of Hamilton and Market Streets and was called Ensley’s Hotel.  The hotel was sold several times and by 1816 it was known as Clarks Hotel.  Benjamin Brundred, head of the Paterson Machine Company, then owned the hotel building.  For many years the site was the Oldham Works.  Before this venture, Brundred had a mill at Haledon.  (In earlier times Haledon was known as Oldham.)  The Oldham Works together with Congress Hall, St. Paul’s Church and several dwellings was destroyed by fire on the night of June 26, 1848.