The Tower at St Marys Paper - (PHOTOS)Tuesday, February 26, 2013 by: Riversedge
Special to SooToday by: Rick Vosper
There’s some fascinating footage on YouTube chronicling the rehabilitation of the former St. Marys Paper site.
Massive machinery fans will marvel as huge hydraulic shears snip steel beams in a jerky time lapse clip. As the frames advance, historic sandstone buildings emerge from the rubble and Francis Hector Clergue’s empire arises from the dust.
Layers of latter day steel and machinery are removed for recycling all around these precious artifacts and it’s easy to feel a connection with the generations who have worked at the site.
As sad as it is to see the end of a local industry that employed paper-makers, machinists, lumberjacks, clerks, transport drivers, sailors, river rats, masons, carpenters, and others, the video imparts a feeling of rebirth and anticipation.
The Pulp Tower is the tallest of the buildings visible from the road at the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site.
Constructed between 1899 and 1901, the building stands 110 feet high by 176 feet long and 68 feet wide.
It was built to house tanks for ‘digesting’ wood chips into pulp.
The structure consists of three sections, stepping down from the 110’ tower to a three story section and a final two story section.
A 1900 article in The Canadian Magazine speaks of the building as ‘stately’ and notes the “warm red colouring” of the sandstone being quarried from the new power canal close by.
Crenellations, arched windows, and corbels lend a fortress or castle-like appearance to the building.
It has been described as ‘one of the most attractive industrial sites in the country.’
Francis Clergue hired another Francis when he required an architect to draft plans for the huge structure needed to house his rampant vision and fiery energy.
Edward Francis Head arrived in Sault Ste. Marie in 1899 as company architect for the Lake Superior Pulp Company.
He was pretty good: “to him it may be possible to attribute the design of some of the most significant Romanesque Revival landmarks of industrial architecture in Canada.” That’s our mill they’re talking about!
He also found time to design Clergue’s main office building, Campbell School, the Cornwall Hotel, the Barnes Block, and four other downtown blocks.
Head left Clergue’s employ in 1902, but was still active in the Sault until 1908.
There are no records of Mr. Head after that.
The Pulp Tower has been abandoned and neglected for decades, but the Riversedge crew cleared a path for visitors.
As we labored up the steel steps of The Tower we were awestruck by the immensity of the building and at a peculiar display the new landlords had prepared for us.
Ancient stone walls illuminated by dusty beams of cold January sun formed the backdrop for a surreal gallery of historic photos and Group of Seven prints on aluminum easels.
It looked great. Yes.
This could be a gallery.
Or a museum.
The view up and down the St. Mary’s river is spectacular and the ambience is lurking in those old stone walls.
I immediately wanted a coffee and a croissant.
Check this out at huronstproperties on YouTube.
You’ll also see footage of other 100 year old sandstone buildings like Mill Square (where Lunch at Allen’s performed during the Fall Festival), The Board Mill, and The Men’s Locker Room.
This mill employed tens of thousands of men and women over the last 117 years, and was the lifeblood that fed our families, friends and relatives.
You can almost see their faces in the solid sandstone; you can certainly feel their presence.
Photos courtesy of SSM Museum