Paper mill artifacts highlight local industry

Some pieces of history are on display at local businesses

The Downtown Camas Association recently received special recognition from the Washington State Main Street program. The recognition came as a result of the mill artifacts fundraiser, which generated 18,000 for the DCA.

In the late 1800s, newspaper owner Henry L. Pittock decided to build a new paper mill and the town to support it. Lacamas, which would later be renamed Camas, was born. Nearly 130 years later, the mill continues its operation today at its site on Northeast Adams Street. It employs 500 people and remains one of the city’s largest employers.

The original idea for the unique mill artifacts project came from Caroline Mercury, a longtime Camas paper mill employee who at the time was also DCA president. Mercury was charged with clearing out a Georgia-Pacific warehouse, which was filled with machine parts and molds that were no longer in use due to technology changes.

At Mercury’s request, G-P agreed to donate the parts to the DCA. Volunteers helped to clean the thousands of parts, and the community was offered the chance to purchase a piece of Camas history.

“Perhaps just as impacting as the opportunity for the town’s people to purchase the items was the buzz created by the availability of mill antiquity, the attraction of folks to downtown Camas to view them, and the burst of education regarding this small town’s industrial history,” said Brenda Schallberger, DCA program coordinator.

Among those to purchase the items were owner of CID Bio-Science, Leonard Felix, as well as Phil and Jessica Fraser and Brendan and Rachel Greenen, owners of Caps ‘n Taps. The artifacts are now on display inside those Camas businesses.

“The DCA took this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to creatively re-purpose artifacts that represent the history of the community and turned what could have been a huge loss into a very cool project,” said Sarah Hansen, Washington State Main Street coordinator.