When you enter the lobby in the Rumford Town Hall, you’ll likely notice a bust of Hugh Joseph Chisholm, whose influence in this region goes far beyond opening the Oxford Paper Co.’s Rumford mill in 1901.

Born in Ontario, Canada, in 1847, Chisholm — an entrepreneur from an early age — became a U.S. citizen and moved to Portland in the mid-1870s. It was there he became interested in paper and pulp, and after getting other capitalists interested in his projects, he started several pulp and paper companies in Western Maine, including Umbagog Pulp Co.; Otis Falls Pulp and Paper Co.; Rumford Falls Paper Co.; Somerset Fibre Co.; Oxford Paper Co.; Rumford Falls Sulfite Co.; Continental Bag Co. And with the Hon. William A. Russell, Chisholm co-founded International Paper Co. in 1898.

The combined efforts of Russell and Chisholm eventually produced 30 pulp and paper mills across the U.S. and Canada.

In his book “The Oxford Story,” author John Leane noted it wasn’t long after the Oxford Paper Co. went into operation that Rumford experienced a population boom. The town soon found it lacked adequate housing.

Enter the Rumford Realty Co., set up in 1901 by Chisholm to acquire the land needed for a large-scale housing project.

According to historical records, the first part of this housing project included 28 wooden houses built on Rangeley Place, Byron Street and Cumberland Street, as well as two large rooming houses called the Oxford House and the Central House, each containing 40 rooms.

A year later, Chisholm conceived of the idea of what is now called Strathglass Park, laid out in the shape of an oval, with 51 two-family brick dwellings in the center of Rumford.

The main access to Strathglass is through a stone gate off Maine Avenue. The entrance radiates out into three nearly parallel streets, with a narrow park near the northern end on Lochness Road. 

The name Strathglass comes from the Strathglass River in Scotland, which ran near Chisholm’s family’s ancestral seat, and the district’s street names are Scottish in origin.

The company divested itself of the properties in 1948-49, when most of the houses were purchased by their occupants. On the Register of Historic Places, the homes were designed by New York City architect Cass Gilbert, and all but one remain.

In 1902, five more brick buildings were built on Somerset Street and nine apartment houses were built on Hancock Street, all to accommodate the growing millworker population.

The Rumford Realty Co. had constructed 186 dwelling units plus the two large boarding homes by 1904. The homes were made available at low rental rates. Records show the company never made a profit and the losses were covered by the paper company.

The Community Center on Congress Street was another Chisholm project, founded as the Mechanics Institute in 1911 to provide a recreation and education center for the community.

At the time it was built, Leane wrote that the four-story, 125- by 80-foot facility was one of the most modern recreational and educational centers in the state.

It included a spacious lounging room, a ladies parlor, a card room, a writing room, a gymnasium, a billiards room, a meeting room for the board of governors and a five-lane bowling alley in the basement.

Now called the Greater Rumford Community Center, people of all ages continue to visit the nonprofit center today for basketball, a fitness center and a strong youth gymnastics program.

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