It's not every day that one finds a house made entirely out of paper. In a state such as Massachusetts, where the weather is known for taking a turn for the worst right around November and straight through until March, it's hard to believe one even exists. Paper, as most people know it, is a flimsy, fragile thing, prone to shriveling up at the slightest hint of moisture. However, one man, back in 1922, discovered a means to turn paper into a construction material strong enough to hold an entire house - and its belongings - together.
The Paper House in Rockport, Massachusetts, is a small attraction but one that's deserving of a visit nevertheless. With various furniture and all of its walls being constructed of newspaper and not much else, it's a whimsical, and some would even say ingenious, work of architecture.
The History Of The Paper House
The house was built by Mr. Eilis F. Stenmen, who was known as a mechanical engineer and was responsible for designing the machines responsible for making paper clips. Thus, it wasn't entirely a surprise when he decided to construct his house out of something he knew pretty well - paper. Newspaper, specifically, was the medium the Stenmen chose, and the building of his paper house began as nothing more than a hobby. The house was meant to be a summer home in Rockport and still stands to this day, owned by Stenmen's grandniece, who has opened it up to the public for tours.
- Fact: About 100,000 newspapers went into creating the whole thing, with about 215 layers stuck together to create the one-inch panel walls, doors, and furniture.
So what, exactly, does a paper house entail? For starters, the newspaper that was only intended to be used for insulation quickly became a medium for all manner of things regarding the house. The walls are insulated and lined with it from floor to ceiling, and even the unique details of the house are made with rolled newspapers. The furniture in the house, including tables and even a grandfather clock, is made with newspaper, as well. The beautiful thing about this process is that Stenmen was able to maintain most of the newspaper's integrity when adding it to the walls and furniture. Therefore, when touring the house, it's possible to read newspaper headlines and even bits and pieces of articles from 1922 until the year of its completion.
How Is Paper Strong Enough to Hold Up A House?
While the interior of the house is entirely made of paper (mostly), the house itself is still constructed with a wood frame and a shingled roof. In order to keep the newspapers together, Stenmen concocted a homemade glue that was made out of flour, water, and apple peels, and it still holds up to this day. The exceptions to the furniture are the piano and the fireplace (for obvious reasons); however, the piano is covered in paper. The only upkeep that has been done to the house is varnishing, and other than that, the house has maintained its natural integrity for the better part of the last 80 years.
Unique Features Of The House
For starters, the newspapers, themselves, are one of the most unique aspects of this paper house. The headlines literally read like a history textbook, with many major events from 1922 on that are permanently installed within its walls (or a table, or a chair...). Additionally, the grandfather clock is a showstopper, featuring bits of newspapers from all of what was only 48 states back in the early 1920s. Therefore, one could say that the Paper House is a piece of living history. It has been a museum ever since Stenmen moved out back in 1930, and guests have been in awe of it for decades.
Visiting The Paper House
Now that everyone's curiosity is piqued, the only thing left to do is add this house to the bucket list. The Paper House is currently open for tours at the time of writing, and getting to it is a bit tricky. The house is tucked away in Pigeon Cove and is somewhat off the beaten path, so visitors can follow the caretaker's directions in order to reach it.
Hours & Admission
- Hours: The Paper House is open daily between the spring and fall months, from 10 AM - 5 PM
- Admission: The entrance fee is $2 for adults, and $1 for children between the ages of 6 - 14 / Admission is charged based on an honor system, please respect it
- Nearby Attractions: Visitors can also check out Cape Ann and Gloucester, or explore the greater area of Rockport