Friday, November 20, 2009

Paper Town: Lee, Mass., on The Paper Trail

Papermaking has been the economic backbone of Lee, Massachusetts, as well as other towns along the Housatonic River, for more than 200 years. At one time, there were 25 paper mills in Lee. The first successful American paper from wood pulp was made here, along with many other industry firsts. In 2008, Schweitzer Mauduit, the largest local employer of paper makers, closed the doors of its four Lee mills, and Mead Westvaco closed one, leaving only one mill running. It is still running.

The Eagle Mill on the Housatonic River in Lee, Mass. The mill closed in 2008, after making paper for more than 200 years.

The history of this great industry in this small New England town is being documented on film by Judith Monachina, a Lee native, and whose family worked in the Lee mills.

"This documentary will be a look at how a small town with a deep history of papermaking envisions its future, and it will give the community a way to look at its past," said Judith.

The documentary tells the story of this papermaking tradition, and the Paper Mills Documentary Project includes students from the Lee Middle School in the process. Students are learning the papermaking heritage of their town as teachers find ways to incorporate local history and papermaking into the curriculum.

Employees of Lee's Columbia Mill in the 1870s.

To date, this project has been supported by Mass Humanities, Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area, High Meadow Foundation, and generous individuals.

Be sure to visit the Paper Town website to learn much more.

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