Collinsville

Tucked in the valley of the Farmington River and nestled into the surrounding hills is a little treasure of a town called Collinsville. It is just 14 miles from Hartford, and is technically part of the town of Canton, but it seems miles from anywhere. The town grew around the Collins Company, a factory that began in 1826 when two brothers, Samuel and David Collins, with the financial backing of a wealthy cousin, began manufacturing axes, machetes, knives and other edge tools. The company expanded over the 19th century, becoming the largest manufacturer of these tools in the world.

The town was truly a company town of the industrial age. The owners built homes for its workers, shops and other buildings, dams for hydroelectric power, and brought the railway to town to transport their goods to the world. When the factory closed in 1966, in part due to the struggles caused by the monumental flooding of the river in 1955, the town didn’t die like many other mill towns might have. Instead, the buildings provided homes for many other businesses, and the small town has thrived in the decades since. It has become a home for artists, writers and is known for the large antique center in one of the former factory buildings. The beautiful setting draws outdoor types to kayak or canoe in the river or to ride bikes along the trail that was converted from the old rail tracks.

Kayaks are piled high at the rental place on the river. Bring your own or rent one if you are so inclined.

Kayaks are piled high at the rental place on the river. Bring your own or rent one if you are so inclined.

In fact, the town was named one of the Top Ten Coolest Towns by Frommer’s Budget Travel Guide in 2007. It lives up to its title.

This red brick building sits along the Farmington River by the dam, facing the Collins Company building.

This red brick building sits along the Farmington River by the dam, facing the Collins Company building.

What to Photograph

There are quite a few old factory buildings right in the center of town that are home to businesses now, but the exterior of the buildings make great subject matter for the photographer. The best place to capture the old ax factory building that hugs the river is from the bridge that crosses the river. Park in one of the small lots close to this and walk to the bridge for the easiest access. From this vantage point, you can capture the back of the series of buildings, the rusty old sign that still hangs on the building claiming that it was home of the Collins Factory.

The light varies greatly between morning and evening golden hours. Try the morning for good backlighting on the large wooden building. This time is good for capturing some light on the large red brick building that sits beside the water sluices on the river. The afternoon light is best for capturing reflections of this main factory building. When the late day sun shines on the buildings, it brings out the details on the building, and reflects into the still water below. Of course, this is better in the spring through the fall, when the river is free of ice. But don’t write off the winter. There might be interesting ice and snow structures to change the atmosphere and add good contrast to the brilliant red buildings.

This vintage sign can be seen on the building from the bridge that spans the river. Remnants of the mid-20th century can be seen with the pieces of neon lighting still attached to parts of the lettering.

This vintage sign can be seen on the building from the bridge that spans the river. Remnants of the mid-20th century can be seen with the pieces of neon lighting still attached to parts of the lettering.

Also when on the bridge, take a look for the water flow controls along the roadside. These large old metal structures might make for some interesting close-ups if you are so inclined.

Cross the bridge leaving town, and follow that road to the right to get to the opposite side of the river. From this location, you can catch a good view of the town sitting nestled within the hills that surround it. This is especially good in fall, when the trees lining the hills are in their full glory, and provide a wonderful backdrop for the 19th century town with steeples aloft.

This is one of the stained glass windows in the Swedish Pilgrim Church on Center Street.

This is one of the stained glass windows in the Swedish Pilgrim Church on Center Street.

Walk through town along Main Street to the Town Green for some architectural beauty. The white Congregational Church sits alongside the Town Green, small but stately. Carry on up the hill for some other old buildings. Look for the old Swedish Pilgrim Church, a colorful blue painted structure, at 13 Center Street. The church closed in 1959, and is now privately owned, but still houses the brilliant blue, yellow and red stained glass in its windows that can be photographed from the sidewalk. Look for other buildings to photograph throughout the town. There are quite a few with the ornate decorations typical of 19th century architecture.

The Swedish Pilgrim Church, built in 1907 is has been privately owned since 1959 when the church closed. It makes for a stately neighbor at its Center Street location.

The Swedish Pilgrim Church, built in 1907 is has been privately owned since 1959 when the church closed. It makes for a stately neighbor at its Center Street location.

When to Go

The fall is the most colorful time to go for landscape shots, but any of the seasons is good to photograph the architecture. Reflections on the river are best in the spring through fall. Sunny days are preferable to make the most of the shadows and highlights that give good contrast on the buildings.

Directions

The Historical Society is in the center of the small town, and there is town parking beside the building, so it makes sense to begin there. There is a small museum of local history here if you’re interested. Hours are limited, but if you get a chance, you can get your fill of information about the axe factory, and how the owners built the town.

Canton Historical Society

11 Front Street
Canton, CT   06019
860-693-2793

www.cantonmuseum.org

www.visitcollinsville.com

GPS Coordinates: Latitude: 41.8128757,  Longitude: -72.9201022 (41°48′44″N 72°55′22″W)

Kayaks and canoes can be rented in town. Consider this mode of transportation for a different view of the town.

Kayaks and canoes can be rented in town. Consider this mode of transportation for a different view of the town.

Tourist Tips

One of our favorite stops for a late breakfast or light lunch is LaSalle Market & Deli. You order at the counter, and grab a table to appreciate the homey atmosphere of the vintage 19th century building. It’s a popular spot and always busy.

LaSalle Market & Deli

104 Main Street
Collinsville, CT   06019
860-693-8010

 www.lasallemarket.com

The old ax factory building of the Collins Company houses all kinds of businesses, including a large multi-dealer antiques shop. If you have some time, spend a little of it browsing through two floors of treasures.

Antiques on the Farmington

10 Depot Street (at Rte 179)
Collinsville, CT   06022
 860-693-0615

 www.antiquesonfarmington.com

Hours: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily

This entry was posted in Central River Valley, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *