My husband and I have worked on several volunteer building projects since our retirement a few years ago. We’ve mostly worked with typical building materials, so I’ll admit, I was fascinated when I learned that there is a house made from—wait for it—newspapers! Wouldn’t you love to see this? Well, you can! The Paper House is in Rockport, Massachusetts, and it’s truly one of a kind!
Elis Stenman, a mechanical engineer by trade, began building a home for his family in 1922. He started with the traditional building material of his day: wood. Stenman used wood timbers to construct the frame, roof, and floors of his home.
Unusual change of plans
Once the framing was completed, Stenman had an “ah-ha” moment. It caused him to change his original plans. The ingenious engineer decided to abandon traditional materials and instead construct the remainder of his home using newspapers. No one seems to know why. Newspaper was certainly less expensive than wood and Stenman had experimented with previous paper constructions—though on a much smaller scale. Whatever the reason, the engineer was determined to make his idea work.
Recipe for success
Stenman brilliantly transformed his newspapers into walls using his homemade recipe that closely resembles today’s paper mâché glue. By mixing flour, water, and apple peels in a secret mixture, Stenman formed a robust paste that secured layers upon layers of newspaper together. The resulting exterior walls were coated with varnish as protection from the elements.
Once the house was constructed, Stenman began making furnishings. Newspaper chairs, tables, bookshelves, and more quickly took form. Stenman installed a brick fireplace in his unusual home but covered over everything except the hearth in (you guessed it) newspaper!
Mr. Stenman and his wife lived in their unusual home for just two short years. Afterward, the home was turned into a museum.
How can a home made from newspapers survive more than 100 years? A fresh coat of varnish is applied yearly to the exterior of the Paper House, with interior pieces varnished as needed.
Many of the newspapers used to make the home are easily readable still today—a boon for history buffs. A clock, for instance, features newspapers from each of the (then) 48 United States. The headline noting Charles Lindbergh’s historic flight is featured on the desk Stenman fashioned completely from newspaper. And there’s so much more!
Self-guided tours are available during the months of April to October. A two-dollar fee is suggested, using the honor system.
Plan your visit using the official Paper House website. Address: 52 Pigeon Hill St, Rockport, MA 01966.
Have you ever visited the Paper House or any other strange or unusual attraction? Tell us about it or them in the comments below. We love this kind of stuff!
We visited the ‘paper house’ during the summer of 2022. It is still there and the ingenuity of the builder is admirable.
Actor Dennis Weaver (“Gunsmoke”) built a Colorado house from straw bales before most people had ever heard of “straw-bale construction.
If that thing ever catches fire….
We visited this house while camping near Salem. It was truly amazing seeing the ingenuity of the builder.
Wow sounds like someplace we’d love to visit. I’d be curious to hear from any RVERS who have visited as the website has a warning about tour busses on a street going to it
The street is located in a hilly residential area and would not accommodate anything larger than a van or small “C”.