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Collingswood

Collingswood Historic Districts:

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A Living Legacy

In addition to its quaint downtown areas and robust shopping and restaurant scene, Collingswood has a rich history that can easily be identified by taking a stroll through the borough’s Residential and Commercial Historic Districts.

Listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 1990, the Collingswood Residential and Commercial Historic Districts document a history of suburbanization, focusing on the transformation from farmland to community development and architectural advancement. The center of the borough is Knight Park, the 70-acre triangular farm field bordered by Park and Collings avenues and Browning Road. It is dedicated by Collingswood native, businessman, railroad executive and real estate developer Edward Collings (E.C.) Knight in 1888.

500 Collings Ave Collingswood NJ (Collings-Knight House)

Knight grew up in what is now known as the Collings-Knight House on the corner of Collings Avenue and Browning Road, around which much of his Collingswood Land Company development was established. Knight’s grandfather, Richard T. Collings, purchased the original farmland along Haddonfield Road (now Haddon Avenue) owned by William P. Tatem, west of the Camden and Atlantic Railroad, and laid out streets and 171 lots that would ultimately lead to the development and establishment of the Borough of Collingswood. The borough’s proximity to Philadelphia and New York via train played a major role in its development into a residential community in the late 19th and early 20th century.

“The first development in Collingswood began after the railroads came through and allowed people to travel from the city to the suburbs,” says Keith Haberern, a historic architect and engineer who currently serves as chairman of the Collingswood Historic Preservation Commission. “These early homes and summer cottages provided a place for people to get out of Philadelphia, enjoy Knight Park and relax. One of the unique features of Collingswood’s historic district is that the homes encompass almost every architectural style in American history, including Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival, Victorian, Colonial Revival, American Foursquare, Arts and Crafts, and Modern.”

Collingswood was promoted as an idealized, planned town with generously laid out streets, residences of high architectural standards and landscapes of beautiful lawns and gardens. The area was advertised as a center for health and highlighted as a resort destination. The presence of the Cooper River and Newton Lake, along with Knight Park, enhanced the community’s recreational appeal. The majority of the homes included in the Collingswood Residential Historic District were built between 1900-1930, following the opening of a streetcar line along Haddon Avenue to Camden in the early 1900s.

As Collingswood’s appeal as a suburban refuge continued to grow, a commercial and social infrastructure began to take shape along Haddon Avenue, previously known as the Camden and Haddonfield Turnpike. In the 1860s and 1870s, most of the land that was to evolve into the commercial section of Haddon Avenue between Fern and Woodlawn Avenues was part of the 95-acre parcel owned by William P. Tatem. Much of the significant commercial growth of Collingswood did not occur until 1904, when Haddon Avenue was transformed into Collingswood’s commercial “main street,” supporting community development, employment and commerce.

“The homes and businesses included in Collingswood’s Residential and Commercial Historic Districts highlight the important historical significance and architectural features that are central to the town’s legacy and should be preserved,” says Haberern. “It’s one of the reasons that Collingswood has become such a popular destination spot these days. We have all of these buildings that are speaking to us from another era, that are important to preserve and not just be made into vinyl-sided boxes.”

In 1983, a group of Collingswood residents formed a civic association called the Proud Neighbors of Collingswood to promote awareness about historic preservation in the community, share ideas on restoration with residents, the business community and the local government, and work to maintain the historic character of the borough. What started out as an outgrowth of a Collingswood Junior Women’s Club project focusing on the beautification of the Collingswood downtown business district led to forming a revitalization committee to promote Collingswood’s approved status on the local, state and national historic registers.

“Members of the Proud Neighbors of Collingswood would give walking tours of the community, highlighting areas of interest drawn up by George Palmer, who previously worked for the National Park Service,” says Ted Nickles, a contractor and former chair of the Collingswood Historic Preservation Commission. “The walking tours, which were made available through the Collingswood Library, are a wonderful asset for people interested in the history of Collingswood and highlight the residences around Knight Park, along Park Avenue and along the main street and commercial district.”

Highlights of the historic district tour include the Gothic Revival home at 206 Collings Ave., home of Emma and William H. Collings, the superintendent of the E.C. Knight sugar factory in Philadelphia and younger brother of Richard T. Collings; the bungalow colony off of Allen Lane between Bettlewood and Colford avenues that included the home of developer H.L. Merrick; the old Collings Manor House, which became Merrick Villa; the Collings-Knight Homestead at the corner of Browning Road and Collings Avenue; and the First Methodist Episcopal Church (now United Methodist).

“The commercial historic district provides a great example of a typical turn of the century and early 20th century business district which, while not architecturally significant, is historically significant and worth preserving,” says Nickles. “One individual who was instrumental in the resurgence of the commercial district was Joan Leonard, an occupational, member of the Proud Neighbors of Collingswood and former borough commissioner who purchased and restored a historic home in town and spearheaded a volunteer effort called Main Street 2000 to paint and restore storefronts on Haddon Avenue. That was truly the beginning of the resurgence of Collingswood’s Commercial Historic District.”

Listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 1990, the Collingswood Residential and Commercial Historic Districts document a history of suburbanization, focusing on the transformation from farmland to community development and architectural advancement. The center of the borough is Knight Park, the 70-acre triangular farm field bordered by Park and Collings avenues and Browning Road. It is dedicated by Collingswood native, businessman, railroad executive and real estate developer Edward Collings (E.C.) Knight in 1888.

Knight grew up in what is now known as the Collings-Knight House on the corner of Collings Avenue and Browning Road, around which much of his Collingswood Land Company development was established. Knight’s grandfather, Richard T. Collings, purchased the original farmland along Haddonfield Road (now Haddon Avenue) owned by William P. Tatem, west of the Camden and Atlantic Railroad, and laid out streets and 171 lots that would ultimately lead to the development and establishment of the Borough of Collingswood. The borough’s proximity to Philadelphia and New York via train played a major role in its development into a residential community in the late 19th and early 20th century.

“The first development in Collingswood began after the railroads came through and allowed people to travel from the city to the suburbs,” says Keith Haberern, a historic architect and engineer who currently serves as chairman of the Collingswood Historic Preservation Commission. “These early homes and summer cottages provided a place for people to get out of Philadelphia, enjoy Knight Park and relax. One of the unique features of Collingswood’s historic district is that the homes encompass almost every architectural style in American history, including Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival, Victorian, Colonial Revival, American Foursquare, Arts and Crafts, and Modern.”

Collingswood was promoted as an idealized, planned town with generously laid out streets, residences of high architectural standards and landscapes of beautiful lawns and gardens. The area was advertised as a center for health and highlighted as a resort destination. The presence of the Cooper River and Newton Lake, along with Knight Park, enhanced the community’s recreational appeal. The majority of the homes included in the Collingswood Residential Historic District were built between 1900-1930, following the opening of a streetcar line along Haddon Avenue to Camden in the early 1900s.

As Collingswood’s appeal as a suburban refuge continued to grow, a commercial and social infrastructure began to take shape along Haddon Avenue, previously known as the Camden and Haddonfield Turnpike. In the 1860s and 1870s, most of the land that was to evolve into the commercial section of Haddon Avenue between Fern and Woodlawn Avenues was part of the 95-acre parcel owned by William P. Tatem. Much of the significant commercial growth of Collingswood did not occur until 1904, when Haddon Avenue was transformed into Collingswood’s commercial “main street,” supporting community development, employment and commerce.

“The homes and businesses included in Collingswood’s Residential and Commercial Historic Districts highlight the important historical significance and architectural features that are central to the town’s legacy and should be preserved,” says Haberern. “It’s one of the reasons that Collingswood has become such a popular destination spot these days. We have all of these buildings that are speaking to us from another era, that are important to preserve and not just be made into vinyl-sided boxes.”

In 1983, a group of Collingswood residents formed a civic association called the Proud Neighbors of Collingswood to promote awareness about historic preservation in the community, share ideas on restoration with residents, the business community and the local government, and work to maintain the historic character of the borough. What started out as an outgrowth of a Collingswood Junior Women’s Club project focusing on the beautification of the Collingswood downtown business district led to forming a revitalization committee to promote Collingswood’s approved status on the local, state and national historic registers.

“Members of the Proud Neighbors of Collingswood would give walking tours of the community, highlighting areas of interest drawn up by George Palmer, who previously worked for the National Park Service,” says Ted Nickles, a contractor and former chair of the Collingswood Historic Preservation Commission. “The walking tours, which were made available through the Collingswood Library, are a wonderful asset for people interested in the history of Collingswood and highlight the residences around Knight Park, along Park Avenue and along the main street and commercial district.”

Highlights of the historic district tour include the Gothic Revival home at 206 Collings Ave., home of Emma and William H. Collings, the superintendent of the E.C. Knight sugar factory in Philadelphia and younger brother of Richard T. Collings; the bungalow colony off of Allen Lane between Bettlewood and Colford avenues that included the home of developer H.L. Merrick; the old Collings Manor House, which became Merrick Villa; the Collings-Knight Homestead at the corner of Browning Road and Collings Avenue; and the First Methodist Episcopal Church (now United Methodist).

“The commercial historic district provides a great example of a typical turn of the century and early 20th century business district which, while not architecturally significant, is historically significant and worth preserving,” says Nickles. “One individual who was instrumental in the resurgence of the commercial district was Joan Leonard, an occupational therapist, member of the Proud Neighbors of Collingswood and former borough commissioner who purchased and restored a historic home in town and spearheaded a volunteer effort called Main Street 2000 to paint and restore storefronts on Haddon Avenue. That was truly the beginning of the resurgence of Collingswood’s Commercial Historic District.”

Today, the homes and businesses that make up the Collingswood Residential and Commercial Districts serve as an important connection to the past and to the power of preservation promoted by members of the local community.

therapist, member of the Proud Neighbors of Collingswood and former borough commissioner who purchased and restored a historic home in town and spearheaded a volunteer effort called Main Street 2000 to paint and restore storefronts on Haddon Avenue. That was truly the beginning of the resurgence of Collingswood’s Commercial Historic District.”

Today, the homes and businesses that make up the Collingswood Residential and Commercial Districts serve as an important connection to the past and to the power of preservation promoted by members of the local community.

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