by Terry Rogers
The home at 205 Southeast Front Street seems very unassuming yet it holds a significant amount of history. The home sits on an L-shaped lot fronting the street with property lines that adjoin Franklin Street and Cedar Alley. The home is two stories with a 5-bay, center-hall plan as well as interior gable and chimneys with corbelled tops. What may surprise many residents is that this home was built in 1794, making it one of the oldest in Milford. The home was built by a ship carpenter named David West who lived in the home until he sold it to Peter F. Causey.
West came to Milford from Virginia and brought boxwood cuttings with him. These cuttings were the start of the extensive boxwood gardens behind the home.
The home changed hands several times, sold to Manlove R. Carlisle in 1836 then to Thomas Roland Carlisle, Manlove’s brother, in 1866. Carlisle added an extensive addition to the home and planted additional boxwood gardens. Thomas Roland was a shipbuilder and conducted a large shipyard along the Mispillion River. He was born in 1822 and married Elizabeth Shockley. The couple had one daughter, Anna. Carlisle Lane was named for Thomas Roland.
Anna Carlisle married Darwin Stillman Collins in 1893 and they had one son, Thomas Carlisle Collins who was born February 20, 1894. Upon the death of her father, Thomas Roland, the estate became the property of Anna and her husband, Darwin, who was the owner and proprietor of Delaware Nurseries, expanded the boxwood gardens behind the home. Upon his parents’ death, Thomas Carlisle inherited the home. He expanded the home and the gardens as well.
Because the home was designed and expanded by shipbuilders, many aspects of the home have ship connections. The window trip was patterned after portholes. They original cypress shingle siding was five-feet in length and overlaps. All the support beams are hand hewn of oak and cypress with wooden pegs used in place of nails or spikes.
Three-and four-masted wooden sailing ships were built behind the home adjacent to the garden. The last three-masted schooner built there was completed around the time of Thomas Carlisle’s death and was named “A and M Carlisle.” At the time, the shipbuilder retained an interest in the ships they built.
Thomas Carlisle Collins married Jane Agnes Sapp of Harrington on October 18, 1923. The couple had no children. Thomas Carlisle became an insurance agent, founding the T.C. Collins Insurance and Real Estate Agency, which he operated for 35 years. He was a member of the Avenue United Methodist Church. He was also a veteran of World War II, serving in France for three years. He was president of the First National Bank for a number of years and then served on the Advisory Board for Wilmington Trust. Thomas Carlisle died after a short illness on May 26, 1969. He lived in the home at 205 Southeast Front Street his entire life.
The T.C. Collins house has wooden corner pilasters with Doric shadow capitals. There is a pent roof across the front with a pedimented entrance supported by paired Doric columns. The home has two side wings, one a glassed conservatory and the other a garage.
The home is on the National Registry of Historic Places as one of the last surviving artifacts from a thriving shipbuilding industry in Milford.
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