BLOOMFIELD, NJ — One of the oldest homes in the township, for years abandoned and now being restored, will be added to the New Jersey Register of Historic Places.
The Collins House, a dwelling built originally in the 1790s and later enlarged, and the lynchpin in the establishment of the Morris Canal Greenway in Bloomfield, was unanimously approved by the New Jersey State Review Board of Historic Places on Thursday, Nov. 12, in Trenton. According to Councilman Carlos Pomares, the council liaison to the Greenway Committee, acceptance by the board was a result of a collaborative effort by Greenway Committee members Rich Rockwell, Mimi Michalski, Andrew Kollar and himself. All four worked on the application submitted to the board. Rockwell, Michalski, Pomares and Corielle Vogel, a Glen Ridge resident and a descendant of the Collins family, attended the Trenton meeting.
Pomares said it was 11 years ago that Michalski attended classes at Drew University to learn about the criteria and application process for a state historic designation. As part of the class, Pomares said, Michalski wrote an application for the Collins House, but never submitted it to the state review board.
He said her application focused on the architecture of the Collins House, which is an example of an East Jersey Cottage home. Michalski’s application was used as the basis for the 2015 application which was submitted in August. Pomares said he was informed in September that the application would be considered by the board.
An East Jersey Cottage style had a simple box construction and employed heavy timber in its support structure. As families grew, new boxes were attached to older boxes to create rooms at ground level or add stories. In 1820, an addition was built onto the Collins House. In the 1950s, a kitchen was built in the back of the house, according to Pomares.
“Initially, the East Jersey Cottage architecture was the focus of the application,” Pomares said earlier this week in
a telephone interview. “But we were able to enhance the application because of the growing significance to reflect its association with the Morris Canal and Collins family, in greater detail. The house is important because of its architectural style but also because of the people who lived on the property.”
Pomares said the Collinses were master carpenters who helped to build bridges and aqueducts along the Morris Canal.
At the Trenton meeting, Pomares said he spoke about the commitment of township funding to restore the house. He called it the centerpiece of the Morris Canal Greenway in Bloomfield, and also a centerpiece within the township. It has been proposed by the Greenway Committee to convert the restored building into a township meeting place and museum.
“We qualify for some grants for which we may not have been eligible before,” he said about the significance of the designation. “And the application is automatically submitted to the National Registry of Historic Places.”
The Collins House, although approved for the historic registry last week, had been eligible for state historic review more than 30 years earlier, according to documentation by the Morris Canal Greenway Committee in Bloomfield.
In 1982, the Historical Society of Bloomfield and the Bloomfield Area Environmental Action Group requested that a study of the house be commissioned by the township. The resultant study prompted the township to purchase the site of the Collins House from its owner, the Marcal Paper Co., while a contiguous tract, also owned by Marcal, was sold to the National Church Residences of New Jersey, which built Kinder Towers.
“Because of its significance, it was spared,” Pomares said, “although it’s been neglected.”
Pomares told the Township Council during its Monday, Nov. 16, meeting that the Collins House would be included in the historic registry. He asked the governing body for a proclamation to acknowledge its significance.
“It was approved unanimously, which was a feather in our cap,” Pomares told the council. “There aren’t many sites in town with this designation.”
Pomares told the council that a $150,000 historic preservation grant was contingent upon the approval of the application. If the grant is awarded, the township will match it, $2 for every $3 received.
“The application was a monster project and it was highly praised,” Pomares said.
Carpentry on the roof of the house is now under way, he said.