Once a key stop on the fur-trading trail two centuries ago, Passaic, New Jersey is now a 3.2-square-mile city consisting of mixed industrial, commercial, and residential land uses and a little over 68,000 people. Located in the southeastern corner of Passaic County, the city is approximately 12 miles from the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels and offers residents easy access to the hustle and bustle of Manhattan.
"Passaic, New Jersey is a microcosm of American history, from the colonial experience to urban decay and back," according to long-time Passaic resident Mark S. Auerbach. He should know. Auerbach, the former city historian, has been documenting the city's history for several decades and is more than happy to talk about its proud beginnings and the rainbow of ethnic and cultural diversity that his town has become today.
According to the original Dutch deed, in April of 1678, a Dutch settler and trader by the name of Hartman Michielsen (later Vreeland) purchased "a great island in the river of Pasaick near by Aquickanucke by the Indians called Menehenicke." According to Auerbach, "The island came to be known as Dundee Island and today that area is known as Pulaski Park."
The city of Passaic was finally put on the map on April 2, 1873, when an act to incorporate the city was signed.
"Between 1679 and 1684/85, deeds and patents were acquired between the original settlers and the native Americans, the Lenni-Lenape, that secured for the original settlers the land including and surrounding modern day Passaic," writes Auerbach. "In October of 1693, the Township of Acquackanonk was created in the northern part of Essex County. In February of 1837, the County of Passaic was created from parts of northern Essex and western Bergen County. In 1854, the Village of Acquackanonk took the name of the river that it bordered, Passaic."