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Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, a new industry began in Gouverneur, and for the better part of the five decades that followed the industry, though it faced its ups and downs, did quite well in Gouverneur and provided employment for many area residents.
The trade that Gouverneur would be noted for was lace. Namely, Nottingham Lace, a finely made English lace that was sought after both here and overseas.
The International Lace Mill, after some financial setbacks getting started, was finally built al the location of the old Starbuck and McCarty Lumber Yard on Prospect Street, The 80,000 square foot mill was completed in the spring of 1903 and boasted acres of hardwood floors. The ten looms that would be used to make the lace curtains that the plant would manufacture weighed five tons each and consisted of over 30.000 parts.
After the plant opened in October, 1903 it employed between 250 and 300 people. Most of the employees were women, making International Lace the first major employer of women in Gouverneur. Many of the skilled workers were either trained in Pennsylvania or brought in from England. In fact, the Nottingham Lace industry was a business that relied on secrets. Every pattern was different and the companies who made the lace didn't divulge their secrets to other companies. So carefully kepi were the secrets that after each draft of a pattern had finished its run it was destroyed. Many English people lived in the Gouverneur area. Around 1910 there were so many English people living in Gouverneur, that cricket leagues were formed.
Even though the lace industry was dead in Gouverneur the huge building that housed the lace operation didn't stay vacant long. In the summer of 1945 the Rushmore Paper Mill purchased the building for use as a convening unit and offices for the Natural Darn mill. Rushmore, which was later Diamond International, still used the building for storage until just a few years ago. The building, which is still in good condition, still stands, and looks much the same as it did when it first opened nearly 90 years ago. It is currently home to the Dunn Paper Company.
Excerpted from an article by Dick Sterling in the Gouverneur Tribune Press Vo. 2, No. 15, Friday, November 6, 1992