Ivanhoe Wheelhouse Museum & Gallery

Paterson's Biggest Secret unvailed

Let me tell you a story about a little old brick building on Spruce Street in Paterson, NJ.

This building of brick, mortar and wood has survived rain, wind, hail, tornado, fire, many changes of ownership, labor riots, race riots, neglect, urban redevelopment, street and highway realignment, loving and hating administrations, wars, peace, concern and indifference. Yet, somehow it still stands proud and special. A quiet spot to visit and think about past surrounded by the present’s great local art. We identify it as the Ivanhoe Wheelhouse. The remnant of a large industrial complex the World Famous Ivanhoe Paper Mill built in 1850. The wheelhouse had a past even when it was seemingly new in 1850. The building then was the wood framed mini mill partially constructed by Peter Colt and used as a cotton mill and paper mill with an overshot water wheel. The wheel pit was of stone and brick, some of which can still be seen. The large beams also survive and are scarred from a fire that consumed a building next door which was being used to assemble the first US locomotive. See how easy it is to slip into the past talking about this little old brick building on Spruce Street. The Ivanhoe Paper Mill went on to make some important contributions to the world like continuous roll paper (one quarter of a mile at a time) and in 1861 the mill produced the paper for the “Green Backs.” Oh, I almost forgot part of the history that has been hidden, in 1847 was the manager and later became the owner , Albert Gibbs Campbell was an African American Industrialist and Poet. Correct, that was well before the Civil War. Seems there is a reason for the artists to be here. The complex like all other in Paterson changed over the years due to fire and national economy swings. The building was fitted into the Rogers Locomotive Works for a while. Edison even installed two generators to run off the turbine in 1910. The turbine was the largest ever used in Paterson producing 350 HP. Most of the complex was in ruins and abandoned, even the turbine was removed during a scrap drive. I think the romance of a building that that has three walls that belonged to other buildings no longer standing. The building has a turbine pit with no turbine. It has a street side door that is really a window. Currently it has a great patio overlooking a dry raceway and a non-flowing waterfall. Now this same little old brick building referred to as the Ivanhoe Wheelhouse is a Paterson secret that is filled with history and art working together to teach the new Patersonians. Commercialization of the building is kind of stupid whereas there is no parking, foot traffic is sparse and it has to be maintained inside and out as the historic treasure it is. The Ivanhoe Wheelhouse Museum and Art Gallery is staffed by volunteers, maintained by volunteers and protected against ruin by volunteers costing the City of Paterson nothing for this. The City reaps the benefit of a historical and cultural gem now known the World Wide because of those volunteers. Indeed a fine reputation for a little old brick building at Number 4 Spruce Street, Paterson, New Jersey, USA.

What's happening now at the Ivanhoe-A new discovery

While researching the Ivanhoe Paper mill time line and ownership one of the owners stood out as a mystery. Alfred Gibbs Campbell was for many years in charge of the New York office and listed as a supervisor of the mill. He was a complicated man and noted as an Abolitionist, a Temperance Leader, Poet, Women’s Rights, publisher of a newspaper “The Alarm Bell” and a patent medicine producer. I guess a very involved man of the times but, I came across a 1923 book that listed his poems as those of a forgotten African American poet. This is where it becomes interesting and historically significant for Paterson and America. Time for recognition as a major Patersonian.

The time line: Born 1826 Died 1884 - Published his Poems 1883

Finest militant race protest of the 19th century (written word) 1830-1860

Single-handedly presented a petition to the NJ State Legislature calling for peaceful session from the Union on account of Slavery

Employed at the Ivanhoe Paper Mill 1849, advanced to supervisor, manager, Singly In charge of the New York City Office and owner of the entire 10 building complex up till his death (35 years)

Alarm Bell 1851-1852

First US Concrete Poem “Song of the Decanter” June 1852

Married Anne Hutchinson (Trenton) Sept 2, 1852

Vice President of the American Anti-Slavery Society, under William Lloyd Garrison 1857