This massive Second Empire structure on Main Street in Collinsville, CT, was built in 1868 by the Collins Company, the major industry in town as housing and stores. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, large industrial employers often provided affordable housing for workers in close proximity to factories to incentivize the long days and difficult working conditions. The Valley House was known as a hotel, but was essentially an apartment hotel, where workers and visitors could reside in a room without a set lease or contract. At the ground floor, retail shops would provide goods and services to residents of the building and the greater village. Today, the rooms have been converted to condominiums.
Historically, banks would construct architecturally grand buildings with ornate interiors to showcase their wealth and stability. The aim for these institutions would be to express longevity and security for those looking for a place to store their wealth. The Collinsville Savings Bank grew out of the Collinsville Company and was incorporated to provide a bank for the ever-growing community in the village, from executives to recent immigrants. The bank was incorporated in 1853, and later relocated into the company’s office building. By the end of the 19th century, company offices expanded into other spaces in the building, and the bank was forced to build this new Romanesque Revival style building on Main Street. The rusticated blocks in the brick facades add a lot of depth and detail to the building, and those ARCHES!
When the Collins Company built its mill buildings in South Canton Village (later renamed Collinsville), workers housing, schools, businesses, and churches popped up to service the growing immigrant community here. The Company also built an office building for the executives, where they could oversee the business’ growth and balance the books. The original office building from 1830 was eventually outgrown, and after the Civil War, this larger building was constructed. The new building held offices, a post office, library, a third-floor meeting hall for local groups. The masonry building has decorative cornice and a gorgeous raised entry.
The first ready-to-use axes produced in the United States came from the Connecticut-based Collins Company, which was founded in the early 1800s. Prior to the firm’s establishment, consumers either purchased unground axes imported from Europe or looked to a local blacksmith who, along with his other activities, might also make axe heads. The Collins Company factory opened in 1826 by Samuel W. and David C. Collins, with the purchase of an old gristmill and a few acres of land along the Farmington River in Canton. As the company grew, the village of South Canton grew around it, and was later renamed Collinsville after the company (imagine if we had Starbuckstown or Walmartville!) In the 1840s, the company expanded and sold internationally with their machete; it sold more than 150 varieties of machetes in 35 countries, supplying 80% of the world’s machetes at that time. In the 1860s, the company built several dams along the Farmington River to produce hydroelectric power to run its factory. It saw steady growth during World Wars I and II. However, after the Flood of 1955 wiped out the railroad line, the company could not match the foreign competition. Portions of the business were sold to the Stanley Works in New Britain and to other firms. In 1966, the Collins Company closed after 140 years in business. Some of the old buildings along the river have since been demolished, others left vacant. Some have been repurposed into other uses, thankfully.