This beautiful property, now the home of The National Museum of The Bahamas Antiquities, Monuments & Museums Corporation, was originally named Centerville House which was unfortunately destroyed in a 1929 hurricane.
Centreville House was re-named Collins House by the Honourable Ralph Gregory Collins when he bought the property. He was born in 1876 to John Everett and Alice Gregory Collins, who first visited The Bahamas in 1904.
Following that in 1905 Ralph Collins also visited and decided to make The Bahamas his home eventually marrying Marion Spooner Brice in 1909. She was the second daughter of David Andrew Brice of Alligator Bay, Long Island, The Bahamas and Maria Starr Stockman of Philadelphia, PA. Marion outlived her husband until 1967, Ralph having died in 1946.
Shortly after their marriage they acquired the property known as Centreville Estate (which would eventually be destroyed by the 1929 hurricane) from the estate of David Brice, Marion’s father, who died in 1909. They had a daughter, Mary Elizabeth Collins in 1910 and a son, Ralph Gregory Collins, born in 1919.
Ralph Collins continued to work as an independent merchant until 1918 when he formed a partnership with William John Pinder and the Honourable John Henry Brown who were exporters of sponge, sisal and turtleshell, and later of wine and spirits. They subsequently became shipping agents and represented many other manufacturing firms.
His business ventures expanded in the 1920’s to include the Collins Land Co.Ltd, involved in harbour dredging, docking and shipping; the Waterloo Hotel Company, in the business of hotels and restaurants which included the building of The Fort Montague Hotel; and a wine spirits and mineral water company trading as the Old Colonial Distillery Company.
It was widely acknowledged that Mr. Collins was instrumental in advancing the economic prosperity of the country with harbour dredging which allowed access to larger steamships; it also facilitated the mail service. The long distance telephone service was established in 1932 and on the 16th December was inaugurated by the Attorney General of Nassau and the Hon. R.G. Collins. He was also active in promoting tourism at that time.
In 1923 it is reported that Mr. Collins became a naturalised British subject and in 1932 was elected as a member of The House of Assembly for the Crooked Island district, in which position he served for three terms. In 1933 he was appointed a member of the Executive Council and retained his seat by extended terms until 1943. He was also an active member of the Board of Health, Public Works Board, Chairman of The Board of Education and Chairman of the Development Board.
Following the destruction of the original Centreville House in 1929, he re-built it in similar but stronger fashion and this was completed by 1931.
In 1938 he was appointed Chairman of the Public Establishment Committee and in the following year became Chairman of the Welfare Advisory Committee and a member of the Dundas Civic Centre Committee.
1941 saw him being granted the honour of Officer of the Order of The British Empire in recognition of the services he had rendered as a member of the Executive Council which thus conferred on him the right to use the title Honourable.
Subsequently in 1944 he was seriously injured in a car accident and confined to his home following which in 1946 he resigned from the House of Assembly due to deteriorating health and died 5 months later.