Wednesday, June 5, 2024
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm



 

Bellows Falls’ rich industrial history and vision for the future will be celebrated in the dedication of the recently installed Robertson Paper Mill Historic Interpretive Kiosk, presented by Bellows Falls Area Development Corporation (BFADC) and Town of Rockingham. The public is warmly invited to the dedication which will take place on Wednesday, June 5th at 5:00 pm at the former location of Robertson Paper at 21 Island Street on the island in Bellows Falls.

Coinciding with the 2024 Vermont Downtown and Historic Preservation Conference held in Bellows Falls, the brief dedication will highlight a marker dedicated to the history of “Robbie Paper,” assembled almost entirely from materials reclaimed from the demolition of the mill in 2019. The event will also feature an installation of paper lanterns decorated by town residents with paper salvaged from the mill. The effort shines a light on the powerful, storied past and bright potential economic development future for this prime location.

Allocated in a cleanup grant from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funds, the interpretive kiosk was conceptualized by local creative team Creative Catalyst Communications in conjunction with grantee and project sponsor Bellows Falls Area Development Corporation (BFADC) as a “Window on the Past” to give viewers the experience of looking through a window at the “ghost” of the building where it once stood. Working with local artist and blacksmith Rich Gillis prior to demolition, the team tagged materials to be saved from the site to be utilized in the design and production of the kiosk.

In addition to celebrating the historic role that Robertson Paper played in the local community and regional economy, the effort contributes to critical placemaking on Bellows Falls Island by encouraging additional pedestrian and bicycling activity, with the “Walk the Rock” program, to meet “healthy communities” goals per the Rockingham Town Plan and Island Growth Plan, while also helping to create a positive environment for economic development growth opportunities at the site and in downtown Bellows Falls.

The project originated as a part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Targeted Brownfields Assessment Program to mitigate toxic soil left behind from manufacturing days, deeming necessary the demolition of the mill. With a goal of redeveloping the property for economic development, the property clean-up effort required a concerted effort from property owners BFADC/ Island Holdings LLC, Town of Rockingham Revolving Loan Fund, US EPA, Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Vermont Community Development Program, Vermont Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund, Windham County Economic Development Program, and Windham Regional Commission Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund.

Bellows Falls was one of Vermont’s largest industrial centers, known for its papermaking industry during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Robertson Paper was the town’s longest-running manufacturer, established in 1881 and closing in the 1980s. “Robbie Paper” remained in business until 1987, becoming one of Vermont’s oldest paper manufacturers, having occupied this site for over 80 years. In 1990, the complex earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places, and from 1992 to 2014 a portion of the property was used by another paper company. However, decades of industrial activity had contaminated the soil, and years of neglect left the buildings unsafe and beyond rehabilitation, hindering redevelopment efforts. Therefore, a difficult decision was made to demolish the structures.

Many materials were salvaged during the demolition process including over one-hundred tons of paper, as well as bricks, granite window lintels, iron I-beams, and rosette stabilizers – some of which were specifically set aside to be incorporated into the kiosk. The total cost of the cleanup was about $1.2 million.

For more information go to https://www.rockinghamvt.org/papermill, or contact Maia Segura at 206-898-7090.