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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.

Kalamazoo Gazette, 18 March 2005
Kalamazoo Gazette, 18 March 2005

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.

Bradford Paper Co., c.1925. Kalamazoo Gazette, 18 October 1925. Kalamazoo Public Library

Bryant Paper Company

Mill Location: South of Bryant Street, North of Alcott Street, east of S. Burdick Street and west of Portage Street.

Looking northeast with Alcott Street and the Bryant Pond visible, c.1904. Kalamazoo Public Library

Hawthorne Paper Company

Mill Location: 2300 block of E. Michigan Avenue

Incorporated July 1911, began operation April 1912, plant closed January 1976.

Hawthorne Paper Co. c.1939. Kalamazoo: The Debt Free City. Kalamazoo Public Library

Kalamazoo Paper Company

 Mill Locations:

  • 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

Kalamazoo Paper Company, 1887-1895. Kalamazoo Public Library photo file P-321

View into the Kalamazoo Paper Company’s engine room, c.1900. Kalamazoo Public Library photo (uncatalogued)

King Paper Company

Mill Location: Situated on the northeast corner of Lake and Cameron streets

King Paper Company Mill postcard

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.

Monarch Paper Co. c.1906-1920. Kalamazoo Public Library photo file (uncatalogued)

Rex Paper Company

Mill Location: One quarter mile east of Sprinkle Road, along E. Michigan Avenue

Rex Paper Mill, c.1930-40. Kalamazoo Public Library photo file P-1663

Standard Paper Company

Mill Location: 1216 N. Pitcher Street

Standard Paper Company c.1908. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, Kalamazoo, MI. 1891. Library of Congress

Superior Paper Company

Mill Location: Southeast corner of Alcott and Burdick streets

Superior Paper Co., Bryant Paper Co. (center), Imperial Coating Div. (left), c.1900-1910. Kalamazoo Public Library photo file P-1038

Sutherland Paper Company

Mill Locations:

  • 243 E. Paterson
  • 2100 block of E. Michigan Avenue

    Sutherland Paper Company. Kalamazoo Public Library photo file P-963



Kalamazoo: the debt-free city

Rowe, Ford F., 1939.
Call number: H 977.418 R87

Development of the paper industry in Michigan

Wilbert Hosler, 1935
H 676 H826

Kalamazoo City Directories

H 917.7417 K14

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (1908, 1932)

Top of History Room Atlas Case

Local History Room Files

Subject File: Paper Industry

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