West Linn History

West Linn Paper Celebrates 125 Years

For centuries, life in Oregon has revolved around the Willamette River. Businesses and families used the river for transportation, power and entertainment—it was, and still is, a necessary and invaluable element of life throughout the state.

The Willamette Falls, located between Oregon City and West Linn, created the ideal, natural location for logging mills, towns and businesses, which thrived around the banks of the river. In the late 1800's, the Willamette Falls provided the first long distance transmission of power in the U.S. by transmitting power 13 miles to downtown Portland. PGE continues to operate a working power station on the site.

Paper manufacturing was a natural evolution and a by-product of the pulp generated by the mills and natural power created by the falls and in 1889, the paper mill was built in West Linn. For over 120 years, paper manufacturing has been an integral part of Oregon's history, building a strong relationship with the people, environment and natural resources that make the Northwest unique. A strong appreciation and reliance on these resources, and the role they play in the day-to-day lives of our employees and neighbors, guides our commitment to preserve and protect the natural beauty that surrounds us.

The mill opened as Willamette Pulp & Paper in 1889 and merged with Crown Columbia in 1914 to become the Crown-Willamette Paper Company. Early products included newsprint, creped toweling and gun cotton. In 1928, the company merged again, this time with Zellerbach Paper Company of San Francisco and the mill was now known as Crown-Zellerbach. In 1947, Crown-Zellerbach pioneered the coated paper process—influencing paper manufacturing across the west. In 1986, the company was acquired by James River Corporation and by 1990, was manufacturing coated paper exclusively under the Simpson Paper name.

After these changes in ownership, the mill was reopened in 1997 as the West Linn Paper Company. We set out to build a strong, resilient business that would weather the changes of the fluctuating paper market. The employees at West Linn Paper Company bring an energy and enthusiasm which drive the mill's success. Today, we run three machines, 24 hours a day and manufacture 700 tons of paper daily. The times have definitely changed, but the pride in our product and service hasn't.

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For more information about the Willamette Falls and the history of paper manufacturing in West Linn, please watch this short documentary created by Oregon Public Broadcasting in collaboration with Portland General Electric. 

Click here to watch »