Update as of November 2023: The house is closed until April 2024.
Elis F. Stenman started building his house in 1922 as anyone else would, with a timber frame, roof, and floors. But when this mechanical engineer and tinkerer began constructing the walls, he chose to use a decidedly different form of wood: newspaper.
The Rockport Paper House’s walls, doors, and furniture are made of varnished newspapers—roughly 100,000 of them. 215 layers of paper were stuck together with a homemade glue of flour, water, and apple peels to make 1-inch-thick panels for the walls.
All the furniture, including a clock, desk, and chair, is functional and made entirely of paper. The only exceptions are the piano, which is only covered in paper, and the fireplace. The house has stood intact for over 80 years, with no more upkeep than the occasional varnishing. What’s more, the walls and furniture are still readable, displaying headlines such as “LINDBERGH HOPS OFF FOR OCEAN FLIGHT TO PARIS.”
While the reasons why Stenman choose paper are unknown, it was certainly a thrifty option. Stenman moved out in 1930, and the house became a museum. Stenman’s grandniece is now in charge of the house, which can still be toured today.
When you visit, keep an eye on the clock, which has a paper from each of the (then) 48 states on it. And don’t ask to use the house’s fireplace. It is technically usable, but—in a house made of paper and varnish—lighting a fire is probably ill-advised.
Know Before You Go
The house is somewhat off the beaten path and the signs can easily be missed.On entering Rockport follow 127 north toward Pigeon Cove. After the Yankee Clipper Inn take the second left(Curtis Street) then another left on Pigeon Hill Street to No.52 (on your right). Honor system suggested admission is $2.00. Open daily, April to October, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.