Having successfully invented the paperclip-bending machine, engineer Elis F. Stenman set out to build a new summer home for himself in Rockport, Mass in 1922, entirely from paper.
He did. It is a marvel.
The Paper House is still standing, and can be toured in the company of Stenman's grandniece Edna Beaudoin, who inherited the gig from her mother. The varnished paper walls, floor and ceilings are joined by paper furnishings and decorative elements. Stenman's paper home is electrified and plumbed, and can be toured for the entirely reasonable sum of $1.50.
Well, let me see. (Elis Stemnan) started out making a house for the summer. The framework to the house is wood-just like any other house-it has a regular wooden floor and wooden roof. The wall material, which was supposed to be insulation really, is pressed paper about an inch thick. It's just layers and layers of newspaper, glue, and varnish on the outside That keeps it pretty water-proof actually. This was done in 1924 and he lived here in the summertime up until 1930. Actually, I guess he was supposed to cover the outside with clapboards, but he just didn't. You know, he was curious. He wanted to see what would happen to the paper, and, well, here it is, some 70 years later.
Have you re varnished it?
Oh yes, lots of extra varnish on the Paper House walls. When the house was built, of course, the porch wasn't here. That was built sometime in the early '30s. So the porch roof really protects the bottom part of the Paper House walls. The top section up there on the peaks of the roof that has shingles on it. Roofing shingles, so there really isn't any paper exposed to the weather. Rain blows in, sometimes snow, but it's held up pretty well considering how old it is. We really don't varnish the inside of the house because the more you put on, the darker it gets and we really just like to leave it so you can still read the papers.
After the wall material was made, and he was living in it, he made the furniture. The furniture is made out of little paper logs. The little rolls of paper are maybe a half inch thick and they're all cut to different sizes-cut with a knife. Then they're glued together or nailed together.