York Town Square

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About York Silk’s boss: ‘Mr. Collins was regarded as one of the big men in this community’

This drawing, from York County (Pa.) Heritage Trust files shows York Silk Manufacturing Co.’s Diamond Branch at the turn of the 20th century. York Silk’s product line ranged from high-end silk products to pajamas. The Hay Street building has been converted into the Hudson Park Apartments, but it remains a visible part of York City’s skyline. Also of interest: After WWII success, Farquhar sells assets to out-of-town outfit and Who will lead the York area in the future? and Who are York’s most influential citizens?

You can’t miss York Silk Manufacturing Co.’s fortress-like imprint on York’s skyline.
How did that landmark building get there in the first place?

Young Matthew Garrett Collins fathered the silkmaking industry around here in the late Victorian era.
He was responsible for building the Diamond branch and another lower-to-the ground, but large East York factory to go with two other plants he oversaw elsewhere in Pennsylvania, according to York County Heritage Trust files.
He made a tall impression during his short tenure in York. He joined numerous local boards and became a man about town.
One story in York Silk’s file celebrates that company’s presence in York and particularly applauds Collins.
“The magnificent silk mills in York which Matthew Collins incepted and founded provided monuments to his memory,” it stated, “having employed hundreds of skilled laborers whose comfortable homes were made possible through their lucrative wages, sending thousands of dollars through the avenues of trade.”
When he died in 1925, newspaper headlines continued to cheer: “Overwork Causes Collins’ Death” and “Man Who Developed Silk Industry Here Dies in New York.”
Collins had left York years before to lead businesses in New York. He scored some business successes, sustained some failures and was in the midst of reorganizing his oil and gas interests at the time of his death in his early 50s.
“For a time,” the article stated, “Mr. Collins was regarded as one of the big men in this community.”
His body was transported back to York, where he was buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery.
His name is forgotten, but the G.M. made a permanent mark on York’s memory.
The factory with two towers and the tall smokestack remains a testament to York’s status as a city of factories one years hundred years ago.
To see two photos of Diamond branch’s continuing presence in York’s skyline, click here.