The Memorial Day Nursery “The Nickel House”

By George Decker
PCHS Newsletter September 2001

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Paterson Day Nursery

In the late nineteenth century, immigrants from all sections of Europe seeking both employment and a new way of life were arriving in Paterson by the hundreds and thousands bringing their families with them.  Because of the acuteness of the labor shortage, wives and mothers among the new arrivals were soon recruited to work in the silk mills.  This led to a problem of what to do with the young children in the families while the mothers were working at their newfound jobs.

Such was the industrial climate in Paterson at the time when the original Memorial Day Nursery was founded in 1887.

During its first year of operation, the day care nursery modestly served sixty-two children from forty-five working families.  But in time, the nursery played an ever increasing and important role in both family and community life and has always been linked to the industrial workers of Paterson.

The nursery had come to be affectionately called “The Nickel House” stemming from the fact that five cents was the charge to the mother for the care of the child for one day.  In those days, the nursery opened at six in the morning and closed at seven at night.  The long hours were necessary since the working hours in late nineteenth century industry were also long.

Excerpted from the Memorial Day Nursery 75th Anniversary Book, 1962