Hinchliffe History

All About the Stadium

The history of Hinchliffe Stadium is closely tied to the history of its home, Paterson, New Jersey. Paterson, was founded in 1792 as the United States’ first planned industrial city, an experiment on which the success of our new nation would very much depend. At the heart of everything lies the Great Falls, a 77ft. waterfall of the Passaic River. At the time of the city’s founding, the waterfall provided the energy needed to power the industrial mills. Today, as the site of the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, the waterfall is at the center of Paterson’s efforts towards urban renewal. Hinchliffe Stadium stands less than 400 feet from the chasm of the Great Falls. In 2014, the park boundaries expanded to include the Stadium, which is nationally recognized for its historic significance.

Constructed as a public works project, the Stadium was completed and dedicated in 1932. This art deco style structure, designed by architect John Shaw, was the result of the vision and perseverance of Paterson’s then Mayor, John V. Hinchliffe. In March 2013, Hinchliffe Stadium was added as a National Historic Landmark. This designation was due to the Stadium’s strong connection to Negro Leagues Baseball. The history of the Stadium and the Negro Leagues were strongly linked from the beginning. As early as 1933, the New York Black Yankees played barnstorm games at Hinchliffe. The stadium then served as their home base during the Colored Championship of the Nation in September of that year.

The New York Cubans, another Negro Leagues team, would call Hinchliffe home for the 1935 and 1936 seasons. The Newark Eagles and Mohawk Giants also played at Hinchliffe Stadium. Among the greats to play at Hinchliffe include, Josh Gibson, Monte Irvin, “Cool Papa” Bell and Oscar Charleston, to name only a few. Other teams also played baseball at Hinchliffe. The Gavin Pros and Paterson City Club, both white teams, started playing at the Stadium shortly after it was completed. The semi-pro, African American team, the Smart Sets, also played at Hinchliffe.

Built as a combination athletic facility, Hinchliffe Stadium was home to more than just baseball. Four professional football teams called the Stadium home: the Silk City Bears, the Paterson Giants, the Paterson Nighthawks and the Paterson Panthers. Boxing also took hold in Hinchliffe, and the stadium began hosting matches in the late 1930s. This included Diamond Glove Championship bouts. In 1946, the semi-finals of the Diamond Gloves Championship hosted at the Stadium would be the first telecast athletic event in the State of New Jersey. Hinchliffe Stadium also played a significant role in the racing history. Both motorcycle and midget car races were held at Hinchliffe as early as 1934. Crowds were thrilled by the high speeds. From 1988 -1990, the New Jersey Eagles professional soccer team also called Hinchliffe home.

While Hinchliffe’s history is filled with professional sporting moments, many locals would tell you that the most important game played at the Stadium each year was the Thanksgiving Day rivalry football game between Eastside High School and Central High School. During one such game in 1941, Eastside student, and later Baseball Hall of Famer, Larry Doby would help his team crush the Central High Colts, 45-6.

The Stadium was far more than just sporting events. Rodeos, concerts and performances have also found themselves welcomed at Hinchliffe. The comedy duo, Abbott and Costello, made several appearances in the Stadium throughout the 1940s. Jazz great, Duke Ellington performed in the Stadium, as did the funk and soul band, Sly and the Family Stone. The Stadium slowly fell into disrepair and was closed in 1997. This closure marked the beginning of a decades-long crusade to protect and preserve this important site. After combined community efforts, Hinchliffe Stadium reopened in 2023.

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