Historical Places Pre-1920
The Aycrigg Mansion was built in 1840 by John Banker Aycrigg, a physician and known abolitionist. One of his sons, who later owned the mansion, Benjamin Bogert Aycrigg, was the first mayor of the incorporated City of Passaic, in 1873. In 1899, the mansion became the first permanent home of the Passaic Collegiate School.
In 1908, the mansion then became the new home of several Masonic Lodges and would remain so until 1994. For a few brief years, the mansion was the home to the Passaic Museum but economic problems terminated that effort.
Since the late 1990s, the Aycrigg Mansion, has been the home to a Jewish Parochial School for boys. The building is one of the finest known examples of Italianate architecture in northern New Jersey and is known to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad.
In 1915, downtown Passaic was already a thriving shopping and entertainment venue, with the most popular items of every imagination available from the numerous merchants that lined both sides of Main Avenue and the intersecting streets. Theatres (all silent), simple eateries to fine restaurants, hotels of varying affordability and numerous houses of worship, were all close at hand.
The onset of World War I, in 1914, in Europe, would eventually have an impact on everything, especially immigration but for the time shown in the photo, everyday life held great potential.
This is a 1913 view, looking south on Franklin Avenue (now Main Avenue), from its intersection with Van Houten Avenue. On the immediate left corner is the only building in this photo, still standing.
Today it is occupied by A-1 Nutrition but in the past it served as an eatery, the Park Branch of the Passaic Public Library and a general store. All the residences on the right side, are now gone, replaced with various commercial enterprises.
Note the street car in the distance! This was the main form of transportation of the day and you could take it all the way south to Newark or all the way north to Paterson.
The second Passaic City Hall building, affectionately know as "The Castle," served the city of Passaic from April 1892 until late 1954 and additionally housed the main city public library from April 1892 until July 1941. It was originally intended to be the home of C. M. K. Paulison and was known as Park Heights.
Mr. Paulison went bankrupt in the Panic of 1873, with the house only half finished. It lay in quasi ruins for almost twenty years. Three very prominent Passaic businessmen purchased the foreclosed property for $30,000 in 1874 and resold it to the City of Passaic for the same amount in 1891.
The building occupied the site of the present Passaic High School and faced north, with the back abutting Paulison Avenue and a magnificent landscaped park in the front. One entered past an ornate gate house, up around a mini lake (original city reservoir) and then through magnificently carved doors! Progress and the need for a new, more modern high school building sealed the fate of the venerable old "Castle!"