Preservation Magazine, Spring 2024

Catch Up With Two Key Players Behind Hinchliffe Stadium's Restoration

photo by: Gross & Daley Photography

Co-developer Baye Adofo-Wilson (at left) and preservation consultant Ulana Zakalak at the restored and rehabilitated Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, New Jersey.

Constructed in 1932 by the city of Paterson, New Jersey, in part to host high school sports, Hinchliffe Stadium has a history that runs deeper than local rivalries. Located within Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, the stadium is one of a handful still standing that hosted Negro Leagues baseball games in the years before Major League Baseball (MLB) was integrated.

After Hinchliffe was shuttered in the late ’90s, locals weren’t sure if they’d ever cheer from its stands again. In 2004 the nonprofit Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium got the property listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Paterson Historic Preservation Commission and its executive director, Gianfranco Archimede, long advocated for saving it. The National Trust named the stadium to its 2010 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places and provided crucial guidance on strategic planning, advocacy, marketing, and fundraising.

Building on funding obtained by the city and the Friends group, a development team secured federal historic tax credits; New Markets tax credits; and other funding to help revive Hinchliffe. The stadium reopened in 2023 as part of a roughly $100 million mixed-use redevelopment of the site. We caught up with co-developer Baye Adofo-Wilson and historic preservation consultant Ulana Zakalak.

What made this place worth saving?

Ulana: The most important thing about the stadium is the fact that it was associated with the Negro Leagues. Other than that, its architectural significance as an Art Deco/Moderne, concrete, open-air arena, and the fact that it survived for so long.

Baye: [Two local high schools] had this football rivalry, and they needed a location for their teams to play. The New York Black Yankees, New York Cubans, and Newark Eagles were also able to play there. There’s just not that many places left where Negro League baseball teams played, and a lot of these teams and players were precursors to the Civil Rights movement. In 1933 the final game of the “colored championship of the world” was played there.

How did the stadium fall into disrepair?

Baye: As there began to be more suburbanization, more flight from the cities, Paterson’s tax base and capacity to maintain the stadium began to deteriorate. There was always advocacy and concern about it. In 2014 it became a National Historic Landmark. The Great Falls of the Passaic River are very central to Paterson’s history and culture, and so Hinchliffe Stadium being adjacent to the Falls is part of the long-term economic strategy and plan to redevelop the city. We got involved in 2018–2019 and came up with a financing strategy for the [project]. That was sort of a demarcation, and we started construction in 2021.

What drew you to this project?

Baye: I grew up in Paterson. A lot of these facilities and parks were being neglected or deteriorating, so there weren’t a lot of places for us to play. One of the reasons it was important to me is that I feel like the kids in Paterson needed, and deserved, a quality facility in town. I was the first developer in on this project. I reached out to my development partner Ed Martoglio of RPM Development Group, one of the largest affordable housing developers in the state.

Ulana: For me, it was the magnet of the history.

What notable features were restored?

Ulana: The entire exterior of the stadium was preserved: the exterior walls, all the sections of seating. The main challenge was restoring the concrete because it was so badly damaged. We restored the decorative terra-cotta plaques, the mosaics of the ticket booths, and the original steel windows in the locker room. We added a new turf field. The original baseball diamond used by the Negro Leagues was stitched into the artificial turf.

How is the site used?

Baye: The New Jersey Jackals play here; they are a Frontier League, MLB-affiliated team. Kennedy and Eastside high schools both play there, but for Kennedy it’s their main home field for baseball, track and field, soccer, and football. We’ve had religious events and international soccer games at Hinchliffe.

We also have 75 units of affordable housing for seniors, a 315-space parking deck, a museum dedicated to Civil Rights history with a focus on Negro League baseball and other Hinchliffe Stadium sports, a day care, and a food court. We did go through a state historic preservation office and National Park Service review, and for the new buildings we played off the style of Hinchliffe Stadium. [They’re] complementary to the historic design.

Like a lot of cities, Paterson has had a rough time. Hopefully this continues some level of momentum. Hopefully we can get more young people there to play and participate in the history, and to make new history.

Donate Today to Help Save the Places Where Our History Happened.

Donate to the National Trust for Historic Preservation today and you'll help preserve places that tell our stories, reflect our culture, and shape our shared American experience.

Preservation magazine Assistant Editor Malea Martin.

Malea Martin is the assistant editor at Preservation magazine. Outside of work, you can find her scouring antique stores for mid-century furniture and vintage sewing patterns, or exploring new trail runs with her dog. Malea is based on the Central Coast of California.

Announcing the 2024 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

See the List