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Stately home comes down, seven years after slaying

South Boston News
The grand old Collins Heights homeplace on North Main Street as it stood Monday, a day prior to being razed early Tuesday morning. (David Conner II photo) / February 22, 2018

It’s gone: the lovely, two-and-a-half story wood frame Colonial Revival home at the corner of Hamilton and North Main Street in South Boston.

With the home’s demise, a dark chapter in recent local history is closed: the April 2011 murder of Charlotte Rice by a former renter, who will spend the rest of his life in prison for his crimes.

The home, located next to Dominion Energy’s office on North Main, was demolished on Tuesday morning by contractor Harmon Saunders.

The home had been purchased by Dominion to allow for the expansion of its operations in town. Last fall, Dominion worked with South Boston Town Council to close nearby Estes Street and a portion of Oakes Avenue to eliminate traffic which led to the house.

The home was built around 1900 by Zach Collins, and featured a one-story wraparound porch supported by classical columns. The home came to be known as Collins Heights: other features included a one-story kitchen in the rear; a topping of a large metal covered onion-shaped dome, and interior brick chimneys located between all the rooms. The home had four fireplaces, downstairs and upstairs, with the downstairs mantels trimmed with carved decorations.

Collins, who once owned the Collins Hotel in Halifax and operated a nearby livery business, purchased the land for the home from the former blacksmith, Henry Easley back in 1888. According to research compiled by the local historical society for its book, the home was named Collins Heights but its name was changed to Oakes Heights after Collins’ death. The name change came with the purchase of the home by Sandy and Belle Oakes.

In 1945 the property was sold to Charlie Rice, Sr. and his wife, Annie Elizabeth who renamed it Collins Heights. Their oldest son, Charlie Rice, Jr. and his wife Charlotte bought out his siblings and then moved into the home where they spent their lives together until death.

The end was tragic: Charlotte was sexually abused and slain on April 14, 2011 by James Lloyd Terry. After more than five years of legal wrangling over the death penalty, Terry is now serving a life sentence in prison.

Barbara Bass, president of the local Historical Society said, seeing the home razed was “very sad as we continue to lose some of our community’s finest treasures.”

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