Childsdale Paper Mill

Illicit romance and its bad results

March 17, 2011 // 0 Comments

The history of the Village of Childsdale, continued by BETH ALTENA Henry B. Childs ran his paper mill with great success for a time. The well-known resident of the county had a penchant for purchasing property and soon owned most if not all of Childsdale, historic accounts tell. Fire destroyed the first mill on July 28, 1868. It was rebuilt and in 1889 Henry deeded half the mill to his youngest son, Horace. Horace had a vision for the plant and introduced new machinery when he became partner. On August 22, 1898 the mill was again destroyed by fire and rebuilt. Old newspaper accounts describe activity of the mill. “May to September the hillside north of the mill is covered with large squares of paperboard with boys running, turning them and loading them back into the plant. If you happen along when a storm is approaching you will see the greatest activity among field hands. The boards are gathered up and carried under shelter. As soon as the sun has had time to dry the grass the boards are carried out and spread in the sun once more.” Part of the success of the company over the years was the result of innovation. The original mill made paper which was shipped to Chicago’s slaughter houses and used to wrap meat. The paper was hauled to Grand Rapids by oxen and shipped from there by train to Chicago. In 1867 the railroad from Grand Rapids to Rockford was built. Later paper prices fell and the mill began to make paperboard, mostly for folding packaging. A claim to fame was the invention of a superior form of cardboard used for egg cartons. The mill workers used a process of combining a layer of straw paper with wood pulp and sulphite. It was far superior to the process of making crates other mills used. When the cartons were ready to hold the eggs, a 200-pound man could not crush them. Another secret to success may have been the way the Childs family paid their employees. They didn’t. Employees could live in the two-dozen homes of the Childsdale village and shop at the company store. For pay they were given scripts with which they could pay rent or purchase […]

Childsdale paper mill in the process of rezoning for new use

March 10, 2011 // 0 Comments

Church considers rehabilitation of riverfront structure by BETH ALTENA On Monday, March 7, Plainfield Township trustees described the progress of a potential rehabilitation of a historic 17.58 acre property and former paper mill at 7700 Childsdale Avenue. BridgeWay Pastor Ron Aulbach said current owners, Rockford Paperboard Company, have offered to donate the waterfront property to the church, which currently meets at East Rockford Middle School. The ten year old church is considering using part of the existing structure and demolishing 60-percent of the building. BridgeWay has asked the township to rezone the property from light industrial to a Planned Unit Development. A public hearing on the proposed change will take place in April. The land last changed hands in December of 1998 when it was sold by Central Leasing to Rockford Paperboard Company for $432,000. Assessors have the value of the building today at $309,500 with a taxable value of $292,861. The structure is actually listed on tax rolls as five different buildings, an office building with 2,271 square feet, three additional buildings of 15,580 square feet, 10,000 square feet and 12,000 square feet and a warehouse of 65,800 square feet. According to Township Manager Bob Homan, the structure is an eyesore and a cobbled together monster that dates, in part, back to the original building of 140 years ago. “It is a terrible, horrible building,” he said. “It was probably a terrible and unsafe place to work. There are probably places better than that in Pakistan and and India.” Homan said the building has not been used in over a decade and then the owners were operating at the barest of margins. He also said it was added to over the years with no regard to code and “is like a ruin.” Aulbach said the donation depends on the results of environmental testing and the company the church is using is in the process of Phase I and Phase II evaluation. Phase I is an eyeball overview of the facility and Phase II will consist of water and soil sampling. He said the church estimates it will cost a million dollars to demolish much of the existing building and rehabilitate the remaining 40 percent on the easternmost side of the structure. “It’s kind of […]