The Collins House , Vermont .

This house was custom-designed and built in 1941 as a safe haven for a prominent New York City family .

Location


The Collins House, Shaftsbury, VT.

The Original Owner

In 1940, Frederic Collins lived with his family in a substantial residence on Manhattan’s Upper East Side , on the East River .  He was a Wall Street lawyer who also had U.S. Naval experience. This latter led him to be increasingly certain that the U.S. would be drawn into World War II, with the likelihood of New York City (and Manhattan in particular) becoming a prime target for enemy attack, by sea or air. Therefore he looked for a location remote from such potential danger, but still relatively accessible (within 200 miles) to New York. He chose the village of Shaftsbury, in southwestern Vermont between Manchester and Bennington, and sought an architect to build on a spectacular site.

The Architect

 Collins hired Henry Otis Chapman, practicing at 101 Park Avenue in Manhattan, to design and build a house large enough for his existing household , including live-in staff, and also suitable for their level of entertaining. The Chapmans – father and son – were very highly regarded for their work during the period 1900-1940, particularly country houses, many on Long Island. Their work for private clients included:

- 952 Fifth Avenue
- “Blythewood”; Muttontown, NY (owned by Alfred Bedford, Chairman of Standard Oil)
- the Wyckoff House, Southampton, NY
- the Porter House, Laurence, NY
- the Maxwell House, Glen Cove, NY
- the Provost House, East Norwich, NY

The Collins House is on a smaller scale than some of these grand houses, and it fits well into the Vermont landscape. It exhibits some restrained but classic late Art Deco details , including some lighting fixtures , fireplace surrounds and entrance porch .The original blueprints, some of which are available, are dated June 1941.

Other  clients included the New York World's Fair , 1939 , where his House of Tomorrow was a key focal point . Also

- The NY Mercantile Library, 47St. /5 Ave., NYC
- The Handley Library, Winchester, VA.

The Location

The house is situated on a knoll in the South West foothills of the Green Mountains at an elevation of about 1030 feet. The long views, deep into New York State and the Adirondacks to the West, and South into Massachusetts and the Berkshires , are remarkable. The observation tower on Mount Greylock is often clearly visible, 24 miles distant.

The middle-distance (5-10 miles) view is over Mount Anthony, Bennington and the Monument. The foreground view is of a landscaped area around the main house, then open meadows gently sloping South. The property is 163 acres, including about 1 ½ miles of road frontage.

Access from New York City:
- By road up the New York State Thruway to Albany/Troy, then East on NY7 and VT 7A for about 27 miles via the new Bennington Northern Bypass: about 191 miles from midtown Manhattan.
- By road up the Taconic State Parkway to Chatham, then NY 22 to Hoosick and Bennington: about 185 miles
- By road up US 7 through Danbury, Pittsfield and Williamstown to Bennington: about 180 miles
- By scheduled flights to Albany International Airport (ALB), or Amtrak to Albany
- By general aviation to William H. Morse State Airport in Bennington; 3700 feet runway , four miles away . 

 

The house is within a 30 minute drive of ski areas: and  golf courses:
- Mount Snow 18 Miles - Mount Anthony CC, Bennington 6 Miles
- Haystack 19 Miles - Ekwanok GC, Manchester 16 Miles
- Stratton Mountain 19 Miles - Equinox GC, Manchester 16 Miles
- Bromley 23 Miles - Taconic GC, Williamstown 18 Miles
- Magic Mountain 29 Miles - Mount Snow GC 18 Miles
- Okemo 39 Miles - Stratton Mtn. CC (3 Courses) 19 Miles
- Dorset Field Club 24 Miles

 Other : 

The Battenkill River, nationally famous for its trout fishing, is 8 miles away.

Williamstown and its Clark Museum , 24 miles . Albany/Troy metroplex 27 miles .
The House

The main house has a traditional white-painted clapboard appearance, with asphalt-tile or copper roofing. However, in order to accommodate the large clear spans of the living and dining rooms, most of the house has a concealed frame of steel columns and ceiling I-beams. The original design included front and back staircases, servants’ quarters on the attic floors and behind the kitchen area, a series of pantries, two bedroom floors and extremely spacious living and dining rooms with bay windows. The living room has a clear open area of about 900 sq. feet, with spectacular views.            The three-bay garage , integral with the house , has new remote-control electric overhead doors , with one bay currently being used as a workshop . 

Substantial house remodeling was done in 1995/6. This included the removal of the back stairs, the addition of a ground floor laundry area and office, and a large new eat-in kitchen (25x18 feet) with stainless steel appliances, cherry cabinets and granite countertops throughout (including a central island 8x5 feet).         The recently-fenced and landscaped 20 feet by 40 feet in-ground gunite pool was added in the 1970s . It is framed by self-watering window boxes and planters by Mayne . 

The current owner acquired the property in 2006. The house has since been extensively restored, upgraded and modernized, including:

- new multi-furnace multi-zone central gas hot air heating systems
- new multi-unit multi-zone central air conditioning, 6 ½ ton capacity
- new electric wiring, outlets and lighting
- new well system, water pressure tank and water heater
- new automatic 12 KW standby gas-driven Kohler generator
- new roofs
- three new, enlarged or upgraded tiled bathrooms, including the master bath with Kohler, Jacuzzi and Grohe fixtures including an airjet tub and large separate shower , also recessed mirrored Robern wall cabinets throughout .


The house has crown moldings and hardwood floors throughout , though the living and dining rooms are currently carpeted. The entrance hall has a Vermont marble tiled floor, and houses an array of brass weather gages ( wind speed , direction , barometer , temperature ) .  There are five bedrooms , 4 ½ bathrooms and a secluded top-floor study suite . Each bedroom has one or more built-in closets. The master bedroom suite has its own interior entrance door , entry hallway , two walk-in closets and its own rooftop deck ; also a working fireplace .The house has about 5,600 sq. feet of finished and heated living area, not including the integral garage (520 sq. ft), the basement/cellar (620 sq. ft.) and the partially-finished attic (950 sq. ft.)

The Grounds

 

 

The property includes about 100 acres of mature mixed hardwoods and 40 acres of open meadows producing one or two crops of high-quality hay annually. Most of the acreage is enrolled in the Vermont Active Use Program. Development rights to 146 acres are held by the Vermont Land Trust, thus ensuring the continued pastoral nature of the property. However, two separate approved sites for future homes have been reserved within this acreage. The owner of the similar-sized land parcel abutting the property (mostly also open meadows) has also deeded development rights to the same Land Trust.

Well-separated from the main house is a 1,300 sq. ft. barn with its own driveway access, electric power and wood stove. This barn has one stall, with space for additional stalls. Adjacent is a stone sugaring-house.

The property landscaping has been significantly extended and improved, including removal and/or planting of hedgerows and trees and stone wall repair. The orchard, which has been restored, comprises about 82 fruit trees producing pears and four varieties of apples.            The multiple stands of other trees comprise mostly red oak , white oak , shagbark hickory and sugar maple , also with some red maple , chestnut oak , beech and ash . The original owner also planted a series of specimen trees , not typically native to VT , now fully mature . These include chinese chestnut , black cherry , hop hornbeam , bitternut hickory and an unusually tall concolor fir .                Unusual features in the grounds include a shed to house commercial skeet-shooting machinery . Also a separate below-ground "root cellar"which the original owner had dug and blasted out of the solid rock behind the main house . This was in fact designed and built as a bomb shelter , as Mr Collins was a cautious man!