PITTSFIELD — "The Clock Tower was a huge part of my life," said Bill Mulholland.
Now the vice president for Community Education and Workforce Development at Berkshire Community College, Mulholland three decades ago was plant manager at the imposing Sheaffer Eaton paper mill off South Church Street.
During the mid-1980s, Mulholland said, the plant employed some 700 workers in downtown Pittsfield, producing fine stationery and other paper products and jigsaw puzzles. That golden industrial era abruptly ended in 1987 when the corporate owner — the conglomerate Textron Inc. — sold off some of its divisions, including the paper lines.
Mulholland and family members responded by creating Berkshire Stationery to produce some of the same products at the Windsor Mill on Union Street in North Adams. That enterprise continued until the mid-1990s before closing, he said, after which Mulholland joined the BCC faculty as a professor.
All of that is background, however, to what brought Mulholland to The Berkshire Eagle last week to present the newspaper — located in the historic Clock Tower building — with a framed architectural drawing showing the massive six-story mill complex in the 1890s, complete with a horse and buggy ambling along South Church Street.
Mulholland said he attended a recent Berkshire Business Roundtable meeting to hear from leaders of The Eagle, which was acquired this spring by a local investment group after 21 years of ownership by a national media chain.
Donating the historic drawing "came to me when [Eagle President Fredric D. Rutberg] was speaking," Mulholland said, "and everything he said about being a local newspaper that everybody needed to be a part of. I was very moved, and right then I said, 'This has to be on your wall.' In a sense, the drawing is going home."
The architectural drawing was given to Mulholland by an employee after the Sheaffer Eaton paper operations here closed, and all of the equipment was moved out — much of it going to the new North Adams operation.
Along with the framed drawing of the mill, Mulholland also presented Rutberg with a 1951 photo of the Clock Tower building with employees going to work at 8 a.m.; an LP record called, "Music To Write Letters By," which the company once produced, and a box of Eaton's Antiqua fine letter paper.
The newspaper, which had been owned by the Miller family since the 1892, purchased the vacant Clock Tower mill building in the late 1980s and moved its press and offices there after a $23 million restoration project.
However, after the move from the former Eagle Street headquarters and the mill restoration project, the family ran into financial difficulties amid a recession and ultimately sold the newspaper and its sister papers in Southern Vermont to MediaNews Group Inc. in 1995.
The Berkshires-based investment group purchased The Eagle and its sister papers in May, restoring local ownership and promising a return to the goal the Millers had set of creating one of the best small newspapers in the country.
The 165,203-square-foot Clock Tower building itself was purchased in June by real estate developer David Carver. The Eagle is one of several business tenants of the building and holds a long-term lease on its space.
Rutberg said he and Eagle Publisher Edward Woods were speaking at a Business Roundtable event at Hotel on North when Mulholland offered to present the drawing, which had been hanging on his office wall at BCC.
"The gift was extremely generous," Rutberg said. "And I think this exemplifies the importance of community and the support this whole project seems to be generating. He just came up to us and offered it."
Mulholland expressed "his confidence in who we are and what we are doing," Rutberg said. "It's very heartening."
The framed drawing is now hanging near a public reception area near the entrance to The Eagle newsroom.
Mulholland said the era that ended here with the closing of the Clock Tower paper operations — and ultimately led to a decline across the industry — had much to do with the appearance of word processors and later, the Internet and email, which caused a sharp decline in the tradition of letter writing.
Sheaffer Eaton products included fine writing paper and typing paper, the "onion skin" erasable typing paper that past collegiate generations saw as a huge advancement in the endless struggle to perfect term papers; the At-A-Glance calendar line, which primarily was produced then at a plant on West Housatonic Street, and jigsaw puzzle lines.
Mulholland said the drawing was produced in the 1890s and depicts the huge mill complex after it had been refitted by Arthur Eaton for a paper converting operation — as opposed to manufacturing raw paper sheets. At the time, it was considered the largest fine paper converting operation in the world.
In 1976, the Eaton Paper Co. was purchased by Textron and was merged with Sheaffer Pen and DuoTang products to form the Sheaffer Eaton Division of Textron.
The original Clock Tower complex was built in the early 1880s, he said, by the Clock Tower Co., which, yes, manufactured clocks.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.