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Why is the Collins House Significant?

John Collins (1754 - 1806) built what is now the southern wing of the house in 1790. Layout of the Collins House showing the oldest section labeled B and the newer section labeled A Collins emigrated from Ireland and fought in the Revolutionary War. He was one of the founders of the Presbyterian Society of Bloomfield from which Bloomfield got its name. John Collins married Mary Baldwin of the prominent Bloomfield family that owned three of the first mills in Bloomfield. Baldwin Street that borders the Collins property was named after the family. Johnís son Isaac (1786 - 1841) built the main section of the present house. The property is adjacent to Third River. Third River in foreground, Collins House indicated with red arrow on right, paper mill in background

The house predates the building of the Morris Canal (constructed between 1825 and 1831). The Morris Canal Inclined Plane 11 East bisected the Collins property. John Collinsí son Isaac (1786 - 1841) and Isaacís son John (1824 - 1906) were Morris Canal carpenters. They played an important role in building and maintaining the Inclined Plane adjacent to their house as well as many of the locks, bridges, and aqueducts on the Canal.

A flour mill and paper mill were the earliest adjacent industries - the flour mill at the top of the Inclined Plane (later to become the Combination Rubber Manufacturing Company) and the paper mill on Third River. Collins house circled in red. Morris Canal Inclined Plane 11 East on the right. Diamond Paper Mill where Kinder Towers is currently located There are no remnants of these mills - apartment buildings now stand where the mills were located. The property remained in the Collins family for 90 years, until it was purchased by the adjacent paper mill to serve as the paper mill caretakerís house. It remained the mill caretakerís house until its last resident vacated the house in 2005. Photo of the paper mill taken from the Baldwin Street Bridge looking north

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first paper mill adjacent to the house was built in 1865. The paper mill went through a number of owners and names including Silver Spring Paper Company (1870), Wymouth (1881), Essex (1883), National Paper Manufacturing Company (1891 when the Collins family sold the house to the mill), United Paper Company (1892), Diamond Paper Mill (1894, the longest tenure of the mill owners, Figure 2), Freeman Corporation (1936), and most recent, Marcal (1960).

Millstone covering a well on the property Cornerstone dated 1759

There is currently a millstone on the property likely from one of the adjacent mills. The house had a cornerstone dated 1759 with an inscription of a crown and the letters HRM which was believed to be have been relocated from an earlier structure. The cornerstone was stolen in 2012.

The house is one of few remaining examples of East Jersey Cottage style. Very few examples of this historical period have survived development in Bloomfield and none have survived in their original landscape. Architectural features of note include rubble nogging construction and brown sandstone fireplaces in the basement.

Section of main house exposed showing rubble nogging construction One of the brown sandstone fireplaces in the basement

 

The State Historic Preservation Office issued an opinion in 1982 that the Collins House and well are eligible under criterion c "that embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction" and criterion d "that may be likely to yield information important in history." According to the Cultural Resource Survey of the house done in 1982 by Historic Conservation and Interpretation, Inc. (Morrell, 1982) which was the reason for sparing the house from demolition in the 1980s, the "house is an outstanding example of sequential building periods from the smaller 1-1/2 story unit attributed to the eighteenth century to the formal larger 2-story nineteenth-century unit of Isaac Collins."

Illustration of Inclined Plane 11 East in Bloomfield from Scientific American, May 20, 1882. The house in the upper-left represents the Collins House, but is not an accurate depiction of the houseís location. Bloomfield is a densely populated suburban community completely developed since the 1960s. Very few artifacts from the 1800s remain. The last remaining historic mill, Oakes Mill, (known for manufacturing wool for Civil War uniforms) is being demolished for an apartment complex. Very little of the Morris Canal remains intact. The adjacent inclined plane has been paved over but the grade and location of the plane are readily visible in the form of John F. Kennedy Drive.

Inclined Planes on the Morris Canal were an engineering marvel in their day. The Bloomfield Plane was featured in Scientific American in 1882. The Plane is particularly significant because the Collins family helped build it, and because the original plane in this location, built by Bloomfield native, Ephraim Morris, won a competition for inclined plane design. The plane and commercial area at its upper basin was one of the busiest locations on the Canal in Bloomfield. Since the canal and inclined plane no longer exist, the adjacent property serve as Canal Greenway and Park Greenway forming a pedestrian and bycicly route from Hoover Avenue to Memorial Park/Belleville Avenue, Oakeside. , connecting Brookside Park with Foley Field and Memorial Pvark.

Contact Friends of the Collins House: Info@CollinsHouse.org