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Rockport’s Historical Buildings–Week 8: The Paper House

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Rockport’s Historical Buildings–Week 8: The Paper House

Rockport Paper House

Rockport Paper House

Rockport Paper House

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Last week we saw the role of Rockport in communications history through the Rockport Cable House. In this last week of this 8-week series, we will look at the Paper House.

The Paper House’s history dates back to the early 1920s. Mr. Elis F. Stenman was a mechanical engineer during the early 20th century. Among his jobs, he designed machines that produced paper clips. Perhaps it makes sense then that he decided to make a house made of paper as a hobby starting in 1922.

In a 1996 interview done by the Cape Ann Sun of Stenman’s grandniece, she said,

“The wall material, which was supposed to be insulation really, is pressed paper about an inch thick. It’s just layers and layers of newspaper, glue, and varnish on the outside That keeps it pretty water-proof actually. This was done in 1924 and he lived here in the summertime up until 1930. Actually, I guess he was supposed to cover the outside with clapboards, but he just didn’t. You know, he was curious. He wanted to see what would happen to the paper, and, well, here it is, some 70 years later.”

Simple curiosity, combined with some engineering abilities, is really the origin of the Paper House. There was no concrete reason to make a house out of paper, but Stenman thought it would be fun, and more than 90 years later, his engineering abilities still shine through. Often times, the craziest, most seemingly unnecessary ideas can be the most fruitful and long-lasting.

Today, anyone can visit the Paper House to see the unique building. Once inside, visitors can also see a paper piano and a paper clock. The Paper House museum is open spring through fall 10 am to 5 pm. For more information and to see the complete interview, visit www.paperhouserockport.com

This is the last in our 8-week series on historical buildings in Rockport. However, we know that there are still many buildings with fascinating pasts in our town, so we will still accept suggestions throughout the year, and will write additional articles upon popular request. If you have a suggestion, please contact us at tlt@rpk12.org and use the subject line “Rockport History”

Thanks are owed to the Sandy Bay Historical Society, who has helped provide the information for many of these articles and whose volunteers have spent countless hours searching archives.

About the Writer
Nathaniel Kirby, Local Events Contributor

Nathaniel Kirby is a junior at Rockport High School and is involved in many of the school's clubs, such as the Green Team and the Math Team. Nathaniel...

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Rockport’s Historical Buildings–Week 8: The Paper House