The Collings-Knight House is significant as one of only two remaining local homes associated by direct bloodline with the area’s original settlers. Robert Zane purchased 381 acres of the Newton Colony tract in 1682. In his will of 1694, he devised 127 acres to each of his sons, Elanthan, Robert and Nathaniel. Nathaniel’s land passed to his son Joseph in 1727, and in 1749 Joseph bought his uncle Robert’s share as well. When Joseph died in 1756, his will indicated that the land would be divided between his wife, Mary and his two daughters, Esther and her husband, Richard Collings of Northern Liberties of Philadelphia, and Rhoda and Thomas Heppard: each received 84 acres. In 1762 Esther and Richard purchased Rhoda’s share, and acquired Mary’s share after her death. 254 acres of the original Newton Colony tract, held by the Zane family for 120 years, thus passed into the Collings family.
Richard Collings divided his land between his three sons, Richard, Edward and Joseph, upon his death in 1791. Richard sold his share back to his twin brothers to be held in common, giving them a total of about 168 acres each. Joseph died in 1818, and Edward in 1820, each leaving their land to their sons. It is Edward’s legacy that concerns the Collings-Knight House: his sons Edward Jr. and Richard T. inherited equal divisions of their father’s land to be held as tenants in common. The land was divided into east and west sections of approximately 84 acres each, with Edward Jr. receiving the eastern section. In 1825 Edward contracted John Ireland, a carpenter to construct a house on his section of the land – the structure now known as the Collings-Knight House.
In 1828, Richard T. and his wife sold their share of the inheritance to Edward, and in 1830 Edward bought an adjoining tract from his cousin, Jacob Collings. This brought his total acreage to around 162. Edward died in 1836 leaving two daughters and an as-yet unborn son, Edward III. His widow, Elizabeth Cox Collings, continued to live in the house and later married Joseph Tatem. Transfer of the property to her children took place after her death in 1868. Edward’s sisters soon sold him their two-thirds of inherited land (1863) giving him a total of 146 acres of the original Newton Colony tract. Five years later, Edward and his wife Susan sold the house and approximately 98 acres to his cousin, Edward C. Knight, ending a little over 100 years of Collings ownership of the land.
Edward C. Knight was the son of Jonathan and Rebecca Collings Knight and the nephew of Edward Collings Jr., who built the house to shelter Rebecca and her children after their house burned down in 1823. In 1876 Edward Knight leased the farm to another cousin, Richard T. Collings of Maryland. Upon Edward’s death in 1892, his children, Anna and Edward C. Knight Jr. became executors of the estate, and leased the site as a rental property.
When the property passed out of the Knight family in 1935, the lot on which the house stood was recorded at 100 x 200 feet. The last private owner, Charles H. Chase, became interested in the history of the house. He recognized the historic significance of the property and bequeathed it to the Borough of Collingswood as a “public historic shrine.” In 1984, the Borough of Collingwood instituted a long-term lease with an officially-recognized friend’s organization, the Friends of Collings-Knight House, which maintains the property, leads the restoration effort, and administers the site’s public functions.