What's left of the Paper District?

SANDUSKY The glory days of the Paper District in Sandusky are mostly gone, but they've left a lastin
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010



The glory days of the Paper District in Sandusky are mostly gone, but they've left a lasting impression on the city.

The last paper-related company that's standing, Sandusky International, is struggling in the harsh economic climate.

Chesapeake Lofts, a condo development that symbolizes Sandusky's hopes for revival, occupies a 1920s-vintage building originally used by Hinde and Dauch, the Paper District's biggest employer.

And George Mylander -- mayor of Sandusky in the 1980s -- still turns away in disdain when he sees Scott Paper Co. products at the grocery store.

Last month, Sandusky International announced it had been forced to lay off 25 people -- 10 salaried employees and 15 union workers. That was in addition to the 16 laid off in mid-January.

Citing a sudden 30 percent rate hike for electricity from Ohio Edison as one of the reasons for its recent problems, Sandusky International is seeking a hearing before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Ryan said.

The company, which makes industrial equipment for paper production, is located at 615 W. Market St. Its work force, which was once several hundred strong, has dwindled to 85 to 90 active employees, CEO Ed Ryan said.

"I would say we are what remains of the Paper District, as far as being an active manufacturer," he said.

The company, which just celebrated its 105th anniversary, has had a number of names over the years but has always been in the same geographical location, Ryan said.

It began in 1904 as Sandusky Foundry and Machine. It became Sandusky International Inc. in the 1960s.

But at one time, the biggest company in the Paper District was the Hinde and Dauch Paper Company. At one point, it had a large building by the waterfront -- the same building now occupied by Chesapeake Lofts -- paper mills in two other city locations, and an office building that now serves as the administration offices for Sandusky City Schools.

The business begun by James J. Hinde and Jacob J. Dauch, a pioneer in modern packaging. It prospered by making corrugated cardboard.

Sturdy cardboard boxes were cheaper and lighter than wood boxes. According to a story in the April 9, 1989 edition of the Register, a corrugated paper box cost 19 cents, compared to 64 cents for a wooden box that was the same size.

In 1910, the Register reported that Hinde and Dauch employed 800 people in various factories in the United States and Canada, including 350 in Sandusky.

In the company's heyday, Sandusky residents could smell the prosperity the company produced.

"It smelled up the whole town. It made you sick to your stomach in the 1940s," said Janet Senne, president of the Erie County Historical Society.

Her husband, Donald Senne, explained that his father, Alfred J. Senne, worked in the electrical department at the plant.

During the 1920s and the 1930s, "it was the biggest employer in town," Donald Senne said.

Hinde sold his interest in the company to Dauch in 1909.

Dauch, perhaps the city's best-known resident, also began the Dauch Manufacturing Co., which made farm tractors.

Though he died in 1918 in a car accident on Cleveland Road near Huron, he still has relatives in the area.

Erie County recorder Barbara Sessler, for example, said Jacob Dauch was her great-great uncle. Sessler's maiden name is Dauch.

Erie County's historical society displays a restored Dauch tractor at the fair.

Over the years, Hinde and Dauch shut down its mills in the city but kept running its lakeside factory. The paper's general offices at 407 Decatur St. closed in 1965, and three years later, the building was donated to Sandusky's school board.

Hinde & Dauch eventually became part of West Virginia Pulp and Paper Co. The company, later known as Westvaco, announced in 1981 it was shutting down the plant. Another company, Displayco Midwest, then acquired the plant. In 1989, Chesapeake, another paper company, bought the plant.

The Westvaco closing wasn't the only one that rocked Sandusky in the early 1980s.

The Scott Paper Company's plant, located next to Westvaco, shuttered in 1981.

George Mylander, who was the mayor when the closing was announced, flew with community leaders to the company's headquarters in Dover, Del., in a vain effort to reverse the decision.

Scott's Sandusky plant had routinely been described as one of the best in the country, and Mylander is still upset about the decision to suddenly shut it down.

It's been 28 years, but Mylander still boycotts Scott.

"I do not buy any Scott paper products," he said. "It turned me against the people."