The longtime plan to open a historic home as a public museum in downtown Collinsville is expected to be realized this year.
Mayor John Miller said he is “ecstatic” to see the project in the final stretch.
“I think it’s going to be such a great thing for the city,” he said. “It’s exactly what we anticipated.”
The city has owned the Daniel Dove Collins House since around 1998. Collinsville historian and journalist Irving Dilliard bought the D.D. Collins House in an auction for $45,000 and gave it to the city, hoping it would be preserved, according to Uptown Coordinator Leah Joyce.
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Joyce said the City Council at the time accepted Dilliard’s donation and tasked the city’s Historic Preservation Commission with renovating and repairing the Collins House without financial help from the city.
Bill Iseminger, chairman of the commission, said the plan was always to open the home to the public as a museum.
Officials expected the home’s restoration to cost no more than $400,000 when it was assessed by an architectural historian 15 years ago. The final cost is only slightly above that estimate at $403,677, according to records of expenditures on the home provided by the city.
A few of the things the commission has paid for with private funding include rebuilding the home’s porch and columns, replacing windows and doors with ones that were made to look like they are from the 1840s, rebuilding the roof support system and installing cedar shingles in the original pattern, and removing old bathroom fixtures to build a restroom that is complaint with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
It’s just the shell of the original thing, so why is it so celebrated?
Resident Rob Dorman on the changes to the D.D. Collins House through the years
Iseminger said the home is worthy of the time and money that has been invested because of its historical significance to the city.
D.D. Collins was the city’s first mayor, a Madison County judge, farmer, contractor, road commissioner and school board president. The home he built is one of the few Greek Revival-style cottages in the state, Iseminger said. Greek Revival was an architectural style that was popular between 1820 and 1850. It’s a big reason the Collins House earned its historic status on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
The home has been around longer than the city itself. Collinsville was first incorporated as a village in 1850, five years after the Collins House is thought to have been constructed.
“It’s probably the oldest surviving house in Collinsville,” Iseminger said.
Resident Rob Dorman, who opposes the spending of taxpayer dollars on the Collins House, thinks the changes to the home have been so significant that he questions how much it resembles the original.
“It’s not even historically accurate because they’re putting in a handicap bathroom and there was no indoor plumbing,” he said, as one example of a significant change. “... It’s just the shell of the original thing, so why is it so celebrated?”
I think it’s going to be such a great thing for the city.
Mayor John Miller on the opening of the D.D. Collins House
While the entire home resembles the period in which it was built, Iseminger said much of the inside is authentically antique.
Iseminger said the commission has purchased some furniture made between 1840 and 1860, including tables and chairs, a dry sink, and bookcases. With repairs to the exterior, the commission has done its best to “maintain the integrity of the house,” Iseminger said.
It hired a professional to analyze the home’s paint through microscopic testing to find and restore its original color. A private contractor used at the start of the restoration process had even used tools from the 1840s in some of his work on the home, according to Iseminger.