K – Parsons Paper Mill

[Stop at the corner of Race and Sargeant Streets.  Look to the southwest.]

This mill is the oldest paper mill in Holyoke.  Its first location was at the northern bank of the First Level Canal spike.  It was used until 1889 as a paper mill and then after that it was used as a utility site by Holyoke Water Power.  Its mill number 2 was built in 1888 on Sargeant Street.  A part of it still remains and is now used by Aegis Energy.  If you stand looking into the area from Sargeant Street you can see the solar panels that help power the energy firm.  Solar power is one of the most important sources of energy in Holyoke.  Aegis selected not to use the turbine and race under its property but this turbine was used for 118 years by the Parsons Mill and its later owners.  A massive fire in 2006 burnt all but the building that is in front of you.

West of this area is the former American Pad and Paper Mill.  Thomas Hussey started this business in 1888 as a legal pad company.  He would obtain waste paper from the other mills of Holyoke and then cut the paper into a size he needed.  The Ampad Company occupies a building that was formerly Berkshire Fine Yarn Mill.  Across Sargeant Street from the Parsons is the Dickinson Fine Paper Company.  The Dickinson started alongside the Valley Paper Mill but moved to this location.

Most of the workers on the canal and in the mills were from Ireland, Germany, Quebec, and Poland.  The canals were built by human power with the help of horses and some steam shovels.  About four times a year the canals are drained of water.  This is in order that the turbines and races can have the build-up of silt removed.  Seeing the canals at those times might not be visually appealing but it is instructive to see the depth at each level and the full stonework.  And it is much less than it was in the earliest days of the canal when the canals were drained every Sunday night for inspection.

This area is where both the First and the Second Level Canal have their southern ends in sight.  Walk up Sargeant Street to its crossing with the first canal.  Look south and you will see how much of a taper the First Canal has at its end.