Hinchliffe Stadium’s architecture speaks of another age. An open air stadium in the classic amphitheater style, it was heavily inspired by the stadium movement of the 1920s. The Stadium’s location, less than 400 feet from the Paterson Great Falls, lends an ambiance to the setting that other stadiums just do not have. The landscape was laid out by the firm Olmstead Brothers, John Charles Olmstead and Frederick Law Olmstead Jr., the sons of famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead. The stadium itself was designed by architect John Shaw of Fanning and Shaw. John Shaw was well known in the region for his school and stadium architecture. The project, which was jointly funded through private fundraising and public monies, was dedicated in 1932. Additional enhancements continued through 1934 at which time, the stadium’s construction was complete.
The initiative to build Hinchliffe Stadium can truly be called a community project. Mayor John V. Hinchliffe spearheaded the construction at the beginning of the Great Depression. He envisioned the stadium project as a way to provide jobs to citizens, while creating a space for the community to share and use. The resulting structure was an open air stadium in the Art Deco style. The stadium's white concrete walls and red terracotta roof tiles are patterned around five gabled towers, standing proudly above the ticket windows. Inside, the stadium’s nearly continuous seating accommodated 10,000.
One of the finer details of the stadium are the decorative tiles that can be found around the outside walls, each depicting a stylized Olympic athlete. The two large bronze relief plaques once located inside the stadium on the north wall, are the work of Paterson’s most famous public sculptor, Gaetano Federici (1880-1964). By the time of the stadium’s construction Federici was already a household name in the Greater Paterson Area, with public sculptures scattered around the city including in front of City Hall and the County Court House. Federici became involved in the stadium project in 1931. He created a scale model of the stadium, so the design plans could be shared with the public. He was also commissioned to create a bronze relief of Paterson track star Eleanor Egg (1909-1999), which he completed in 1932. A second bronze relief, featuring champion swimmer Albert Vande Weghe (1916-2002), was commissioned in 1934. Federici’s final contribution to the stadium was a cement relief, Roman Gladiator, which was built into the stadium wall by the concession stand.
The stadium, originally municipally owned, began to fall into disrepair in the 1950s. In 1963, ownership was transferred to the Paterson Board of Education who made many upgrades and repairs, including moving the orientation of the baseball diamond. However, over time, the building again fell into disrepair and was closed to the public following the 1996-1997 school year. For several decades members of the local community championed Hinchliffe’s significance and called for action to stall its decline. Their hard work was rewarded when Hinchliffe Stadium was first added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, and then became a National Historical Landmark in 2013.
In 2021, restoration work on this historic stadium began. New life has been breathed into the stadium, which is now part of a complex that includes housing, restaurants, a childcare facility and a museum. Again, Hinchliffe Stadium is living up to the goals of its original vision as a shared space where the Greater Paterson community can meet, learn, and recreate.
The Olmsted Brothers firm developed a landscape plan for Hinchliffe Stadium. Around the same time, the firm also acted as consulting landscape architects for a number of county parks in Passaic County.
A project begun at the very beginning of the Great Depression, Hinchliffe Stadium received federal funding through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and other government initiatives.
Mayor John V. Hinchliffe served three consecutive terms between 1929-1937. The Hinchliffe family was a powerful one in Paterson at one time. The family was the owner and operator of Hinchliffe Brewing and Malting Company, a business which was opened in 1861 by the family patriarch. The brewery was very successful until prohibition shut it down in 1920. John V. Hinchliffe’s uncle, another John Hinchliffe had served as Mayor of the city himself from 1897-1903.
Paterson sculptor, Gaetano Federici (1880-1964) created three reliefs for the Stadium. A prolific public sculptor, today there are approximately 40 of his works within a 2-mile radius of Paterson City Hall.
Eleanor Egg (1909-1999) was the first Paterson athlete to be honored with a plaque in Hinchliffe. A track and field star, in the 1920s, she broke national records in many categories including relay, broad jump, 100-yard dash and shot put. Egg qualified for the 1932 Olympic team, but was not able to compete, due to an injury. In later life, she opened a dance studio in West Milford, New Jersey.
Albert Vande Wegne competed in the summer Olympics in 1936. He was a silver medalist swimmer honored with a plaque at Hinchliffe. He was known for being the first man to swim the 100-yard backstroke in under a minute. He attended Princeton University where he swam for the Tigers. He graduated from Princeton with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in 1940.
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