Sunday, September 12, 2010

Smokestack Lightnin'

From Mick Melvin:

On a trip to Pennsylvania to visit my family, I took a side trip to Delaware to visit my best friend. As I drove on Route 72, I noticed a lone smokestack in a vacant lot in Newark. It got me thinking of its origins. On my way back to PA, I took some shots of the structure and noticed the name Curtis embedded on the smokestack. When I returned home, I went to the Internet to investigate and was quite surprised to find plenty of info on this site.


The smokestack is the only structure left from The Curtis Paper Mill. The complex was purchased by the Curtis brothers in 1848, although a mill had existed on the site since the late eighteenth century. The mill was also known as the Nonantum Mill, which refers to the Indian name for an area in Newton, Mass., where the Curtis brothers grew up (an area known colloquially as The Lake, and which is about a five-minute walk from my house -- ed.).

The James River Corp. later purchased the plant, but the mill closed in 1997. The plant was eventually demolished in December 2007, leaving the smokestack as the lone reminder of years past. An effort is under way to save the stack from demolition.


  1. James River used to own the paper mill in my hometown. They bought a lot of paper mills around the country in the early 1980's.

  2. The stack is currently being abated for demolition. There was an Asbestos band about 30 feet up and that had to be removed prior to the stack coming down. The flyash also had to be tested and removed. I think the current schedule is for the stack to be removed this year. It is leaning by about 5 degrees to the North and a few degrees to the East. The ground underneath is a warren of streams and rubble fields, so the stack is untenable as a stand alone structure.

  3. I have a couple of photos up close from my last inspection of the stack. One shows a fatal crack in the stack running vertically up from the ash clean out. Is it possible to post those?

  4. David -- you can email me at