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Granite Paper Mill

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Cottonwood Paper Mill; Deseret Paper Mill
1881–1883, Henry Grow. 6900 Big Cottonwood Canyon Rd.

The Granite Paper Mill in Cottonwood Canyon was the only large-scale pulp paper mill built in Utah. It was owned by Deseret News, a key institution of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The manufacturing house was essential to the LDS Church’s efforts to foster trade and cooperation among its followers, and to establish independence from the unreliable paper shipments from eastern states. The Deseret News, founded in 1850, was a vital building block in the economy of the Mormon territory that Mormon scholar Leonard J. Arrington has titled the Great Basin Kingdom.

In 1879, LDS Church president John Taylor and Deseret News officials purchased 110 acres of land adjacent to the mouth of Big Cottonwood Creek, whose water would power the three wheels needed to manufacture the paper. Beginning in 1881, civil engineer Henry Grow Jr. (1817–1891) built the mill directly east of the river, on land once occupied by a brewery. Grow, an early convert to Mormonism, had earlier devised the complex roofing system of Salt Lake City Tabernacle, and for the Deseret News commission, he traveled to Eastern states to study the architecture of paper mills.

The mill was designed with efficiency in mind, utilizing the hilly terrain to its advantage, so that a 1,500-foot race could bring water through a penstock to power three encased turbines. Grow’s design for the 86,100-square-foot mill consisted of a simple, L-shaped plan with an 11-foot-square and 110-foot-tall mansard-roofed tower located at the corner of the two perpendicularly arranged wings; the larger of the two, located to the north, measured 115 by 66 feet with an east-west orientation, while the smaller wing, oriented north-south, measured 107 by 56 feet. The facility was constructed of local granite (hence the mill’s name) set with a mortar of clay and stone grindings. The one-foot thick, single-stack walls feature roughly dressed stones atop a coursed gray granite ashlar foundation. Double-door openings on the north and west elevations are set in segmental or rounded archways. Regularly spaced windows in the north wing feature granite lintels (one exception being a segmental arch over a third-floor window), and those in the south had heavy timber lintels.

Grow worked in partnership with Thomas Howard, a Welsh papermaker who brought 22 years of papermaking experience to Utah after he was fired from his job in England for joining the LDS Church. Howard had designed a successful rag-paper manufacturing center in Sugar House, and when the LDS Church expanded their paper production, they relocated much of the Sugar House equipment to the north wing of the Granite Paper Mill. The expansive mill interior provided uninterrupted spaces that moved the raw material through a sequence of soaking vats, drying screens and rollers, and onto the printers. At the peak of productivity, the mill manufactured five tons of paper daily for the Deseret News, which remains Utah’s oldest continuously published daily newspaper.

In 1893, a fire destroyed the mill building. The granite skeleton lay abandoned until 1927, when it was renovated for use as the Old Mill Club. The north wing featured a dining room, restroom, and other facilities, while the south wing offered a dance floor open to the sky. Another fire in the 1940s once again damaged the building but it was then renovated to include restrooms, a furnace room, an entry hall, a two-and-a-half-story dance hall, a bar, offices, and an apartment on the second-floor mezzanine; the third floor featured party rooms and an indoor archery range. The building was used well into the 1980s as a discotheque. Now abandoned, the mill was condemned by the city of Cottonwood in 2005.

References

Barrow, C.W., Jr., "Granite Paper Mill," Salt Lake County, Utah. Historic American Buildings Survey, 1967. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (HABS UTAH 18 SLC-9).

Smith, Melvin T., "Granite Paper Mill," Salt Lake County, Utah. National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, 1970. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C. 

Writing Credits

Author: 
Shundana Yusaf
Coordinator: 
Shundana Yusaf
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Data

Timeline

  • 1883

    Built
  • 1893

    Burnt and abandoned
  • 1927

    Partially rebuilt and repurposed as a night club
  • 1945

    Renovated after fire
  • 2005

    Condemned

What's Nearby

Citation

Shundana Yusaf, "Granite Paper Mill", [Cottonwood Heights, Utah], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/UT-01-035-0064.

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