By Rosalind Russell – Milestone … it is a sad day for Espanola, we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the idling of the Domtar Pulp and Paper Mill in Espanola… please share your memories or comments below …
In a short history of our town, it is ironic that Espanola was founded in 1899 as a company-owned town. That year, the Ontario government signed the Espanola Agreement with the Spanish River Pulp and Paper Company, which gave the company the authority to begin logging operations over a 5,600 km area for the next 21 years.
Under the agreement, a pulp mill capable of employing 250 people was to be constructed. A company-owned town site was established which stretched from the Spanish River to where Second Street is today.
It is not the first time the mill has been shut down. Following World War I, an improved economy resulted in the expansion of the paper mill and an influx of new people. Two new schools and a community center were built.
The mill now employed almost 700 people. Unfortunately, this economic boom was short-lived and by 1924 the pulp and paper industry had become somewhat depressed, resulting in a number of people leaving town.
In 1928 the Abitibi Power and Paper Company merged with the Spanish River Pulp and Paper Mills Company. Abitibi had overextended its finances and was forced to begin laying off employees.
On December 31, 1929, the Espanola mill was closed permanently. A small maintenance crew was kept on to provide public utility services to the town site.
During World War II, Espanola became the site of a prisoner-of-war camp for German soldiers.
In 1943, the Kalamazoo Vegetable Parchment Company of Michigan purchased both the mill and the company’s town site and restarted the mill operations. A Canadian subsidiary company, the KVP Company, was formed to handle the Espanola mill operations. By the mid-1940s, both the mill and the town were in need of modernization and repairs. In 1946 the KVP Company established the Espanola Development Company as a wholly-owned, privately incorporated subsidiary to administer the town.
On March 1, 1958, Espanola was incorporated as a Town with a population of 5000. Since its inception as a municipality, Espanola has continued to expand. The pulp and paper mill was under the ownership of E.B. Eddy since 1969, and then Domtar Incorporated.
It was purchased by Paper Excellence in November 2021, but the new owners have chosen to divest themselves of the property leading to the idling of the mill today.