Do you wonder why we named our Inn "The Collins House Inn"? Do you also wonder how the guest rooms got their names? Well . . . George A. Collins originally built the house (in the early 1920’s) on property that his sister-in-law "Ella" (Ella Bolling Collins -- for whom The “Ella” guest room is named) originally owned. George purchased the property in 1919 from Ella's surviving children. A local historian has photos showing a different house on the property prior to the one you see now. We’re not sure if it possibly burned down, or if perhaps George had it torn down to make way for the present-day structure. George was a local merchant who, along with his brother Lewis Preston Collins, Sr., opened the Collins Brothers Department store in 1898 in downtown Marion, VA. George never married and lived in the house with his maiden sister, Mollie (Mary Shields Collins -- for which The “Mary” guest room is named). George also helped raise his nephew, Lewis Preston Collins II, who went on to become Lieutenant Governor of Virginia from 1946 until his untimely death in 1952 - hence the guest room named The "L.P.". And, last but not least, the "Nettie" guest room is named after one of George's famed
Smyth County News - Marion, Virginia, Thursday, February 5, 1948
GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY - George A. Collins and his Collins Brothers Department Store of Marion will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding next
Wednesday. The store - Marion's oldest mercantile establishment and one of its most successful - will declare a holiday from business and hold a reception from 2 to 5 o'clock to which all its and Mr. Collins' friends are invited.
It will be a great day in the long, useful and busy life of Mr. Collins, and the store his friends will gather in will be in remarkable contrast to the modest establishment he and his brother, Lewis Preston Collins, Sr., hopefully opened in 1898 in the space across from the present store now occupied by Vance Hardware Company.
Mr. Collins had come here from the Bertha Mineral Company whose company store, in Wythe County, he had been managing for two years. His older brother was then traveling for a prominent Baltimore, MD mercantile house and continued to do so for the first two years of the store's existence. They were sons of James B. and Elizabeth Shields Collins of Greenville, VA, in Augusta County, an old Albermarle and Nelson Counties' family - one of whose ancestors fell at Brandywine, fighting in the American Revolution.
At 14, George Collins was working on the farm and in charge of the family flour mill. He had been born in 1875 and got into business early. The milling job was all right, but there were also long hours at the west end of a pair of mules headed east, plowing the new ground -- a peculiar preparation for a man who was to make his mark in the business world mainly because of a certain flare for instinctively understanding what's "right" about the clothes that women wear. Some call it taste, and George Collins always had it.
The little store struggled along for a couple of years on the south side of Main Street and then moved into larger quarters when the late W. P. Francis completed the present building -- or one might say the forerunner of the present building -- as it has been so extensively rebuilt and modernized. Upstairs was an opera house with outside steps, downstairs was the expanded Collins Brothers and the partners prospered.
About 1911 the firm bought the property from Mr. Francis and expanded again into the second story in spite of the advice of friends not to go it too big or "we'd bust."
Those were the days when women's hats were millinery - something even more strange and wonderful than they are today. Traveling milliners came to a town and created them - perhaps erected would be a better word - right in the store. George Collins went strong on millinery. He hunted out the best ribbons and other materials, he got the best milliners. Some of Southwest Virginia's older women in neighboring counties will recall traveling many, many miles in those days to get a Collins hat.
In 1917, the partnership was dissolved by the death of Lewis Preston Collins, Sr., father of Marion's Lewis Preston Collins II, now presiding over the senate of Virginia as the state's lieutenant governor. George A. Collins purchased the entire interest and the store continued its steady growth through the years becoming the outstanding institution which it is today.
Outside the business, Mr. Collins can look back on a useful and active life. Perhaps the service he holds closest, and is proudest of, was his 40 years with the Marion Volunteer Fire Department, the last 20 of which he was its president; but more likely it is his activity in the Marion Baptist Church, in which faith he has been for the past 25 years a life member and chairman of the board of deacons and superintendent of the Sunday School.
In public life, Mr. Collins was an active member of the group which fought through the construction of Smyth County's present courthouse, and he served in it in 1911-12 as county treasurer under an interim appointment by the late Judge Hutton of circuit court. When World War I cam along he tried to enlist and was turned down for reasons of health. He got his chance to serve as a spearhead in the sale of war bonds, and he has some good stories about how Smyth County went over the top on his $400,000 quota in the final drive, conducted in cruel winter weather during the great flue epidemic which was so bad. Mr. Collins says that, "At one time, I found myself the only active member of the committee. The others were all either confined or dead."
Mr. Collins has also been very active in the Masonic orders and in his day has filled every chair in every one of the three branches of Masonry in Marion. He served on the committee which built the present Masonic Temple. As the present century began he was also a great stirrer around among the gay blades in what was then the town's leading social organization - the well remembered Virginia Club. It had its clubrooms on the second floor of the Culbert commissary building where the Marion National Bank now stands, another institution which Mr. Collins helped to found.
In the days when quail hunting in Smyth County was really quail hunting, Mr. Collins was noted as very fast and accurate wing shot and as late as around 1929 he was a very stout man at busting clay pigeons with his long-barreled trap gun over the traps at the old fair grounds. With his hunting quite naturally went the keeping of bird dogs, and some of his are still remembered as among the county's best.
"I'd like for you to say one thing for me." Mr. Collins said this week. "The key to happiness is an unselfish, busy life with a well grounded hope in eternity."
milliners, Nettie Shaver, who we’re under the impression was at the very least a close family friend -- as she was with George on his buying trip in New
York the day he died. After George's death in 1951, Nettie resided in the home with George's sister, Mollie.
Below is an article that appeared in the Smyth County News, Marion, VA on Thursday, February 5, 1948 - that will help you "get to know" George Collins. George Alexander Collins was born in 1875 and died on Tuesday, January 23, 1951 (at age 76) while on a buying trip to New York City. He is buried in the family plot in Thorn Rose Cemetery in Staunton, VA.
George Alexander Collins
Ella Bolling Collins
Mary Shields “Mollie” Collins
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In More Recent Years . . .
Not long after the death of Mary Shields “Mollie” Collins (in 1960), the property became part of a local hospital. Shortly after that, it was acquired by a local Ear, Nose and Throat doctor, Emmett V. Richardson, Sr., who opened his practice on the first floor of the home. For many years, the second floor of the home was rented to various businesses and a local lawyer. Dr. Richardson’s son, Emmett V. Richardson, Jr., later became a doctor and joined his father’s practice. The “Richardson Clinic” was operated until approximately 2001 when Dr. Richardson, Jr. decided to retire. Dave Fields and Sheila Quattrocchi purchased the property August 2, 2002 and began what would become an almost 5-1/2 year total renovation, transforming the home into The Collins House Inn -- a bed and breakfast. The Collins House Inn officially opened December 1, 2007 with the hosting of their very first guest.