Article by NorthofBoston.org
Rockport, Massachusetts is known for many things – its beautiful coastline, thriving arts scene, fishing industry, terrific seafood, and an isolated incident of hatchet-wielding. But did you know that Rockport is also home to a house made entirely of paper?
1922 was a good time for Elis F. Stenman. The mechanical engineer from Cambridge was building a summer home in Rockport and wanted to use pressed paper as insulation. The insulation, made of layers of newspapers stuck together with glue, was varnished on the outside and rather water-proof. And then Stenman decided to take the paper a little further.
When completed, Elis Stenman was now the proud owner of a house made of paper. The outside of the house was sided with paper, the furniture made out of rolls of paper, the drapes were paper, and even the mantle on the fireplace was made of paper. In fact, everything in the house was now paper, save the fireplace and piano (but those were covered with paper to match the rest of the paper-motif).
The funny thing is, no one knows why. Stenman did design machines that manufactured paperclips, so perhaps he wanted to bring home a piece of his work. Maybe he was curious and wanted to see how long a house of paper lasted. Or, he was just cheap. Whatever the reasoning, the Paper House still stands strong nearly 100 years later (and is fully-equipped with electricity!).
If you’re visiting Rockport, be sure to stop by the Paper House. It’s a uniquely curious bit of history and creativity. The house is open daily, 10am-5pm, from spring through fall. Admission is a very fair $2.00 for adults ant $1.00 for children 6-14.
For more information, please visit paperhouserockport.com. The website features some great pictures of the house and a fascinating interview with Stenman’s grandniece and Paper House caretaker, Edna Beaudoin that offers more insight into Elis Stenman and his house.