Kalamazoo Paper Mills
Yes, There Really Was a Paper City
The following is but only a brief sketch of some of the major paper mill facilities throughout the city of Kalamazoo, all of which contributed significantly to Kalamazoo’s economic success over the course of the first half of the 20th century. One cannot downplay the importance this industry played in fostering community wealth and cultural growth.
By the dawn of the 20th century, the Kalamazoo River Valley was host to the greatest concentration of paper mills in the world. The conditions for success were all there: proximity to big city markets (Chicago and Detroit), access to water (Kalamazoo River and Portage Creek) and railroads, a bustling labor pool of largely Dutch immigrants, and competent business leadership.
The history of the paper industry is also the history of company name changes, corporate mergers, capitalist globalization, devastating environmental pollution, and the gradual erosion of a once dominant industry. During the 1930s, 25 percent of Kalamazooans worked in the paper industry. By the 1960s and 70s, jobs connected to the manufacturing of paper products began to decline. In 2004, only 2.5% of jobs in Kalamazoo County were associated with the paper industry.
At the turn of the 21st century, the local paper industry had all but expired, leaving in its wake, a century long legacy of embedded chemicals like PCB’s. In the early 2000s, community efforts were led to hold both private companies and federal agencies accountable for the cleanup of the Portage Creek and Kalamazoo River.
Mills and Locations
Bradford Paper Company
Mill Location: Southeast corner of Lane Boulevard and Fulford Street (2001 Fulford St.)
Incorporated November 1924, began operation April 1925, closed/sold March 1927.
Bryant Paper Company
Mill Location: South of Bryant Street, North of Alcott Street, east of S. Burdick Street and west of Portage Street.
Hawthorne Paper Company
Mill Location: 2300 block of E. Michigan Avenue
Incorporated July 1911, began operation April 1912, plant closed January 1976.
Kalamazoo Paper Company
- The inaugural paper mill in Kalamazoo County was located south of Cork Street, east of Burdick, west of Portage Street, along the Portage Creek
- Like other paper companies, KPC built several buildings along the Kalamazoo River, near Kalamazoo’s Eastside Neighborhood at 2210 E. Michigan Avenue
- Georgia-Pacific mill was located at 2425 King Highway
King Paper Company
Mill Location: Situated on the northeast corner of Lake and Cameron streets
Monarch Paper Company
Mill Location: 400 block of E. Cork and Redmond streets, near where the very first mill in Kalamazoo was once located in the 1860s.
Rex Paper Company
Mill Location: One quarter mile east of Sprinkle Road, along E. Michigan Avenue
Standard Paper Company
Mill Location: 1216 N. Pitcher Street
Superior Paper Company
Mill Location: Southeast corner of Alcott and Burdick streets
Sutherland Paper Company