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Repainting of Baseball's Only National Historic Landmark, Hinchcliff Stadium in Paterson, NJ

Paterson NJ has been a very active city over the past century: boasting several landmarks from the industrial revolution and ringing in dozens of historical events that left their own mark on the community. One of these great events was the first Negro Baseball League in the United States, which was founded and played in Hinchcliff Stadium, in the Great Falls District of Paterson, NJ. Hinchcliff became the center of this controversial league in the 1930s where African American baseball players, who were not allowed in the major leagues, came to play the sport that is known today as America’s pastime.

This 10,000 seat “City” stadium hosted hundreds of baseball games until African American’s were finally allowed to play in the major leagues. After the Negro Baseball League came to a close, this massive concrete stadium took on a new role of hosting important events such as football, boxing, auto-racing, international soccer, and major track and field meets, plus star-studded musical and entertainment events. Many Paterson high school graduates received their diplomas on the infamous field of Hinchcliff Stadium, but unfortunately, the past 2 decades have not been friendly to this National Landmark. When the stadium closed in 1997 due to lack of funding for upkeep and maintenance, this piece of Paterson history fell prey to the environment and vandals. Walls began to collapse, seats were damaged and unusable, and street artists began littering its walls with graffiti. Not long after, this once prized stadium was on the verge of demolition.

However, a historic landmark like this would not go without a fight. The National Trust for Historic Preservation group recognized this aging stadium and did not want such an important piece of Paterson history to fall victim to lack of funding. They organized an event to restore Hinchcliff Stadium with the help of local high school students to bring some pride back to the stadium. The goal was to enlist volunteers from the local schools to repaint the structure and remove all the graffiti and give it a new look. After the walls were painted, the hopes are to restore the stadium for use once again and allow it to bring another century of history to Paterson, but first the community needed some motivation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation approached Alpine Painting and asked if we could lend a hand in overseeing this community event. The event was marketed to local residents and the Paterson School system as "Save Hinchcliff Stadium by Painting Paterson's Field of Dreams". Alpine embraced this opportunity and pledged to do whatever we could to ensure this project was successful. Valspar donated 900 gallons of paint and primer and Alpine assisted the group, with the help of Riccardi Brothers Paint Store, to get all the sundries that would be needed to complete a large scale event like this. Alpine came ready to work. We enlisted 15 crew leaders who agreed to oversee the students on the day of the event.

On April 16th 2014, 800 volunteers, most of which were local high school students, entered the gates of Hinchcliff stadium to embark on the mission to bring this structure back to its old glory. The project would take place in 2 phases, the first phase was to prime the entire structure with a group of 400 volunteers and the second phase was to paint the entire structure with the remaining 400 volunteers. However, before any work could take place, safety had to be addressed. The stadium itself was mostly structurally sound and had been swept and cleaned up prior to the event, but areas of the stadium were still not safe for student access. Areas in the upper seating area had been deemed unsafe to work in while other areas were deemed to have lead paint present. These areas were clearly marked and were only allowed to be accessed by authorized personnel. Since the goal was to have the entire stadium painted, Alpine sent its own lead trained workers to paint the areas with lead paint. Prior to the event starting, all students had a motivational pep talk and safety seminar to go over the game plan of the day's events. Alpine employees setup stations throughout the stadium to provide sundries and tips on how to go about the project.

Alongside local and state politicians, community activist and residents of Paterson, the National Park Service officially designated Hinchliffe Stadium as a National Historic Landmark. After the ceremony concluded the students were sent to go paint. Hundreds of excited and energetic people sprinted over to the work stations where Alpine employees handed out brushes and rollers with buckets of paint. The students then jumped into action and got to work. Within 30 minutes, almost all of the graffiti on this inside of this facility was under a coat of primer. Volunteers applied the remaining prime coat over the course of the next hour and this piece of history was beginning to show its true colors once again.

Phase 2 of this project was identical to phase 1 but with a new group of students. After the students broke for lunch, 400 more eager volunteers picked up brushes and rollers and started painting once again. The students spent the next 3 hours applying as much paint as they possibly could to the walls of the stadium. Within 6 hours, this graffiti covered stadium, on the verge of demolition, got a new facelift from its own local residents. Since this event, the organization Friends of Hinchcliff Stadium has received 1.2 million in donations and is looking to raise another 24 million for a total restoration. U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. has introduced legislation to get Hinchcliff Stadium into the footprint of the park to make it eligible for more funding. The Hinchcliff Stadium will now be able to thrive for many years into the future thanks to the efforts of many volunteer organizations.

The historic preservation commission of Paterson awarded Alpine Painting as the sole recipient of the Good Graces Award for outstanding community leadership and stewardship for repainting one of Paterson's most treasured historic places, Hinchliffe Stadium.

Dave Scaturro
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