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Robert Smithson’s “Monuments of Passaic”

Robert Smithson’s map of Passaic, Wallington, and Woodridge, New Jersey, ca. 1967, showing his amended path. From the Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

ROBERT SMITHSON knew the route of the No. 30 intercity bus by heart. When the twenty-nine-year-old artist boarded the No. 30 on September 30, 1967, to make the short trip between New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal and the Union Avenue Bridge in Rutherford, New Jersey, little seemed to have changed. He still could have been the teenager with a scholarship to the Art Students League riding the bus between old Clifton High School and the seedy neighborhood in Manhattan where he always disembarked.

Ever since “The Monuments of Passaic” was published in these pages fifty years ago, the bus ride Smithson described in his article has been treated as nondescript. In fact, it was anything but. For starters, he rode past the home of poet William Carlos Williams, his pediatrician; the two-family home in which he had lived with his parents until he was eight or nine; and the elementary

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