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Warren Historic District

The Warren Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.


The Warren Historic District is located in the City of Warren, a northwestern Pennsylvania community of 11,122 residents in the western foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. The district is located west of the Conewango Creek and north of the Allegheny River in an oxbow created by their confluence. The district contains 627 resources, 595 (94%) of which contribute to its historic character. There are only 32 noncontributing resources, comprising less than 6% of the district, all less than 50 years old. There are six buildings individually listed on the National Register and are therefore excluded from the resource count. These buildings are the Warren County Courthouse (1977), the Women's Club (1996), the Warren County Historical Society (1975), the Struthers Library (1975), the Warren Armory (1991) and the J. P. Jefferson House (1985). The district consists of a commercial area located principally along Pennsylvania Avenue and Liberty Street, between Pennsylvania Avenue and Third Avenue, and Second Avenue, between Market Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Residential neighborhoods surround Warren's commercial section to the east, north, and west. There are seven active churches within the district, four of which are located on Market Street. There is one active school in the district, located on the corner of Market Street and Second Avenue. Predominant styles are consistent with Victorian and early 20th century architectural trends. The district encompasses five contributing sites, parks, two of which contain a total of three contributing objects. General Joseph Warren Park is a triangular park at the junctions of Pennsylvania Avenue West, Third Street and Poplar Street. It contains a contributing bronze statue of General Joseph Warren (1912), for whom the town is named. Soldiers and Sailors Park is located at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Hickory Street on the bank of the Allegheny River. It contains two contributing recently restored monuments, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument (1909) dedicated to the county's Civil War dead, and a temple (1922), dedicated to the first thirteen Warren County men who died during World War I from Company I. Additionally, there are two parks located on Fourth Avenue, one park on the corner of Market Street and Seventh Avenue, and one at the junction of East Street, Water Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. All contain open grass, flowers shade trees and uncounted landscape features. These parks contribute to the historic character of the district. Clemons Park at Hickory and Fourth, established in 1966, is counted as noncontributing. The district contains no cemeteries. The overall integrity of the district is very strong.

Warren retains its original 1795 layout, a grid plan with the streets rotated approximately 15 degrees counter-clockwise from the north-south axis. Pennsylvania Avenue and Water Street, (formerly a continuation of Pennsylvania Avenue) are the exceptions, running roughly parallel to the course of the Allegheny River and the Conewango Creek. The historic district boundaries encompass the majority of the 524 original inlots. Of the original plan, only the streets located south of the Pennsylvania Avenue and Water Street intersection have been excluded due to modern industrial and commercial development. The four bridges which cross the Conewango Creek and Allegheny River have also been excluded from the district as they have not been evaluated at this time. The district's range of historic architectural styles is typical of both New York and Northern Pennsylvania towns dating from the early nineteenth to twentieth centuries. Popular styles include Greek, Italianate, Queen Anne, Bungalow, and Foursquare as well as a sampling of many other styles. Forty-one percent of the buildings are considered vernacular. The commercial portion of the district consists principally of two-to-four story masonry buildings dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By the early twentieth century, Warren's original inlots had been built up and new residential construction moved east (across the Conewango Creek), south (across the Allegheny River), and west.

Warren's residential section makes up the largest portion of the historic district. Approximately 81% (508) of the buildings in the district were built as single family dwellings. An additional 1.6% of the buildings were constructed as duplexes. Of those 508 single family dwellings, about 6% have been converted to duplexes or apartments and an additional 9% currently function as commercial buildings, offices, or in another capacity (including a church, the offices of the Warren County Historical Society, a club, etc). Most (85%) of the built housing stock in Warren is still serving its original purpose. Properties which currently combine residential and commercial functions make up about 2.5% of the district. Properties currently used for commercial, retail and office functions make up just under 15% of the district. Approximately 70% of all the buildings in the district are wood-framed.

Warren's oldest surviving buildings date from the 1820s and 1830s. Dwellings built prior to 1860 make up only about 6.8% of the district's existing housing stock. While there are few monumental or high style buildings dating from this period, most have recognizable Greek Revival style detailing. The dwellings at 114 East Street and 117 Market Street are typical of the modest pre-1860 housing stock in Warren. These 1 1/2 story side-gable houses have simple corner pilasters, wide frieze boards, and cornice returns, common architectural details of the Greek Revival style.

The majority of these buildings are single family, gable front or ell designs with minimal ornamentation (407 Fifth Avenue, 6 Fifth Avenue and 5 Melrose Place).

Dwellings built between 1860 and 1920 also dominate the historic district's residential resources. In order of frequency, Italianate and Second Empire houses comprise just under 17% of the existing housing stock, Queen Anne houses comprise just over 13%, Colonial Revival 7%, Foursquare 3.6%, Craftsman and Bungalow 3.6% and miscellaneous styles including Italian Renaissance, Stick, Shingle, Tudor Revival, Classical Revival and Ranch comprise 7.2% of the housing stock. Tied to the eras in which each style became popular, the percentages reflect the age and nature of the community as well as period architectural trends. The 1864 Falconer-Smith House at 301 Market Street and the 1868 Brown-Yerg House at 318 Liberty Street typify the fashionable Italianate style and Second Empire style housing being built in Warren during the second-half of the nineteenth century. Like the previously constructed buildings, stylistic influences and detailing range from strong to simple and understated. Queen Anne style influences of the late 19th century (308 Fourth Avenue), late 19th century and early 20th century Foursquares (406 East Street) are also evident. Craftsman and Bungalow influences are present (2 Fourth Avenue), as well as Classical and Colonial Revival of the early 20th century (409 Liberty Street).

Most buildings, 78%, were built between 1880 and 1910. While vernacular houses exist throughout the district, many are concentrated in the north, more particularly the northeastern section of the district. Many vernacular buildings display some modest architectural detail. Decorative turned-spindle porch balustrades are frequently seen (417 Rankin Avenue). Common alterations, including the use of aluminum and vinyl siding, the addition of modern storm windows, and the removal of porches, appear to have contributed to a loss of architectural detail over time.

Brick buildings make up 22% of the building stock in Warren and stone buildings make up an additional 2%. These buildings are concentrated in Warren's business district. While many of Warren's earliest buildings were built along Pennsylvania Avenue, most of the downtown buildings date from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Fires in the nineteenth century periodically removed older, usually wood-frame buildings, from the downtown streetscape. In 1870, a large fire destroyed 26 buildings downtown. As the oil discoveries and the development of related industries brought economic prosperity to the community in the late nineteenth century, fashionable two and three-story masonry buildings came to dominate the streetscape (300 block Pennsylvania Avenue, 200 block Pennsylvania Avenue, and 200 block Liberty Street). One of Warren's most defining downtown buildings dates from this period. It is the flat-iron National City Bank Building, which sits on the point dividing Second and Pennsylvania Avenues. Elaborately carved Hummelstown brownstone and a clock tower topped by a dragon weather vane are a few of the defining architectural details on this 1891 building, which replaced a block destroyed by fire in 1889. Although fires necessitated the replacement of many downtown buildings, other buildings were replaced when businessmen and merchants sought additional space or more modern facilities in order to do business more efficiently or attract customers. Facade and signage alterations were commonly made to 'update' buildings in downtown Warren, usually only on the first floor, which would be most visible to foot traffic.

Historically, Warren has been the seat of county government. Today, the Warren County Courthouse constructed in 1875-1877 in the fashionable Second Empire style, continues to serve as the offices for most county agencies. The courthouse is located on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Market Street in the center of the district. In order to have ready access to county agencies and records, a number of the city's law offices are located in the fashionable nineteenth century buildings along Market Street. Much of the exterior integrity of Market Street's large houses, which might otherwise be threatened, is maintained by their new use as law offices. The Warren County Jail built in 1975 and located at 407 Market Street is noncontributing. Overall, however, the preservation and continued use of the courthouse for its original purpose is a strong asset in the historic character of the district.

A number of Warren's clubs and organizations, founded in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, are still active today. Some organizations have downtown meeting halls, located above or next to retail spaces. A few wealthier organizations were even able to build their own clubhouses in the early twentieth century, including the Conewango Club at 201 Market Street and the Elks Club at 341 Hickory Street.

There are seven active churches within the district (six are contributing) and one former church currently used as a theater. The Christian Science Church occupies an 1868 building which was formerly a residence. Both the Trinity Episcopal Church and the First Presbyterian Church (300 Market Street) date from 1895-1896 and are in the Romanesque Revival style. The Gothic Revival style Methodist Episcopal Church and the Classical Revival style First Baptist Church date from the mid-1920s. The former Swedish Lutheran Church was built in the Gothic Revival style in 1916. Most church congregations replaced their early nineteenth century churches in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when economic prosperity and swelling congregations provided the impetus to do so. Congregations employed the popular ecclesiastical styles of the period. There is one non-contributing school in the district and one contributing school building, the former East Street School built about 1895.

Noncontributing buildings are not concentrated in any one area, but are scattered throughout the district. As the historic district encompasses the oldest section of the city, all of its streets were built up by the early twentieth century. Newer buildings have been constructed in the district to fill the few holes created by the loss of older buildings. The district's noncontributing buildings include non-historic dwellings, commercial establishments (Kwik Fill, 201 Hickory Street), apartments, the county jail, a bank, and a school (120 Market Street). Most are single-storied and appear to match the scale, if not the architectural age, of the surrounding neighborhood. Two noncontributing buildings rise above the scale of their streetscapes, the apartment buildings at 209 Market Street and 310 Liberty Street which are seven stories high in neighborhoods composed of two and three story buildings. Changing uses have also affected the district. Some residential housing along the first two blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue West has been turned into commercial and office space, sometimes accompanied by a loss of architectural integrity. The loss of dwellings, outbuildings and landscaping, often to parking lots, has had a greater negative impact on the streetscape of Warren than the construction of noncontributing buildings. This can be seen particularly on the 200 blocks of Second Avenue and Third Avenue on which are located at the entrances to the main downtown parking lot.

Despite scattered intrusions and losses, the integrity of the district is remarkably intact: all buildings old enough are considered contributing. There is a strong cohesiveness to the community; historical setbacks have been maintained, as well as the architectural scale and primary architectural elements of entire streetscapes. Throughout the district, entire blocks retain a level of integrity that, compared to other districts, is relatively rare. Most buildings, within the district, 94%, retain enough original appearance to be considered contributing. Many of the district's frame houses have been painted in traditional polychromatic themes. The residential streets are broad with buildings set back from the streets, which are lined with mature trees. Sections of East, Water and Poplar Streets and Second and Fourth Avenue retain their exposed brick paving, dating from 1911. Most lots are fairly deep, some terminating at mid-block alleys.

The Warren Historic District conforms to the original 1795 street plan, the frontier origin of the community. Surviving individual architectural works combine into entire streestscapes which convey Warren's 19th century growth into 20th century maturity. The central business district and large residential portions of the district together reflect a whole community dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The scattered noncontributing properties have little effect on the district's overall integrity.


The Warren Historic District is significant ... because it contains a significant concentration of oil related residential and commercial buildings. The reader is referred to ("Historic Districts of Oil Communities" in the Multiple Property Documentation Form "Resources of the Oil Industry in Western Pennsylvania, 1859-1945") for additional context. The Period of Significance begins with the date of the oldest known extant resource, 1820. It encompasses the City's two great periods of prosperity associated with the lumber industry between 1820 and 1845, and the oil industry, between 1875 and 1945, the end of the Period of Significance as identified in and consistent with the MPDF. The last five decades have, of course, left their mark on the town. But no major urban renewal projects occurred and Warren's traditional conservatism has argued against the demolition of buildings. The results are residential and commercial streetscapes throughout the district that reflect significant nineteenth and early twentieth century commerce, politics, and architecture.

Warren's earliest settlement patterns are evident in the street grid, river orientation and intermingling of pre-1850 regional architectural styles drawn from two of the major westward migration routes. The City's history began in 1795 when General William Irvine and Colonel Andrew Ellicott, under the direction of Pennsylvania Governor Mifflin, surveyed and laid out the town at the confluence of the Allegheny River and the Conewango Creek. Warren was one of four towns laid out by the Commonwealth in that year (the others being Erie, Franklin and Waterford) in an effort to promote settlement in the northwestern part of the state and to provide security on the nation's western frontier. The result of the survey was a town plan firmly rooted in the eighteenth century; a strong regular grid pattern with a designated town square at Market and High (now Fourth Avenue) Streets. This careful design sets Warren apart from many northwestern Pennsylvania river towns, which are usually located in narrow, steep valleys and tend to be irregularly strung out along the available flat land. Warren's original town lots, measuring 58 1/4 feet by 233 1/4 feet, were auctioned in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1796.

The intent of General Irvine and Colonel Ellicott, when they surveyed Warren, was for the principal buildings of the town to be located on the square at Market and High Streets (now Fourth Avenue), several blocks from the Allegheny River. Warren was appointed the county seat in 1819 and the first courthouse was built on this square. In 1876 when a new courthouse was erected, it occupied the same site and continues in use to the present time. It is, however, the only public building on the square. The lots on the northeast and southeast corners were auctioned in the mid-nineteenth century and private dwellings built. As Warren developed, its lifeblood, like most towns in northwestern Pennsylvania, was the river. Commercial and industrial growth was oriented to the Allegheny River, as the main thoroughfare of commerce. The topography of northwestern Pennsylvania, with its steep slopes and narrow valleys, was not amenable to canal construction, although canals were used in limited areas. Instead, the lumber industry and later the oil industry relied on river-based transportation to reach markets in Pittsburgh and beyond. The result was that, while still obeying the street design laid down by General Irvine, the entire commercial and industrial life of the town grew up, until the railroads arrived in the 1850s, within a block or two of the Allegheny River. By the second half of the nineteenth century, fashionable residential neighborhoods began to expand northward from the commercial district, eventually encompassing the area around the diamond.

The appearance of Warren's early buildings did not reflect architecture found in southern, central, or eastern Pennsylvania. Talbot Hamlin in Greek Revival Architecture in America, noted that representative Pennsylvania design "was content to use almost indefinitely the simple five-bay scheme and the ample dimensions of the old eighteenth century houses." Instead, as migration moved westward, Warren found itself much closer to the migration route across New York, used by New Yorkers and New Englanders moving to Ohio's Western Reserve, than to the major migration route across Pennsylvania far to the south along the old National Road. Hamlin argues that rural architecture in New York, perhaps spurred by the intermingling of New York and New England traditions, was much more inventive than that of Pennsylvania builders who tended to reserve Greek Revival style influences for church and government buildings rather than domestic purposes. It was far easier for people to come to Warren County from the north than from the south, where the route had to contend with the valleys and steep slopes of the heavily eroded and heavily forested Allegheny Plateau. The river also flowed south, making the flow of lumber resources southward easy but upstream barge travel to distant locales like Warren more difficult. Consequently, in the decades prior to the national Victorian architectural styles when regional influences were still strong, Warren's buildings resemble New York and New England architecture, with an embrace of the Greek Revival style.

Nearly all of Warren's pre-Victorian buildings were Greek Revival influenced, with varying degrees of architectural sophistication evident. The Offerle-Patchen house and the Jackson-Sill house (despite the addition of a later Victorian porch) are fully developed examples of the rural Greek Revival style. The Offerle-Patchen house, 415 Third Avenue, dates from 1832 and is the oldest brick building in Warren. It consists of a central one and a half story form with an adjoining one story wing. The house has a wide frieze board, fully developed cornice returns and a simple portico porch supported by Doric columns. The Jackson-Sill house, 224 Liberty Street, dating from 1830 when built by Thomas W. Jackson, is a miracle of survival. The house is located on one of Warren's main commercial streets in the downtown district, yet it survives largely intact. Its detailing, including frieze board, cornice returns and an entrance flanked by paneled pilasters, clearly retains its original Greek Revival style elements.

The residence at 506 East Street represents a fairly common early building form in Warren and reflects the town's New York/New England heritage. This form draws on Federal style architecture, with its symmetrical bays, yet its detailing is of Greek Revival style influence, especially the wide frieze board and pilastered entrance. Several other houses of this type exist in Warren, notably 402 Liberty Street which adds corner pilasters as additional detailing. All of these buildings reveal a lightness of design more attuned to New York than to Pennsylvania. The fact that they are also all of wood further sets them apart from other Pennsylvania examples, the more monumental of which tend to be brick or stone.

Even the vernacular houses of the period show distinct Greek Revival style influences. Much of the more modest pre-1850 residential development took place along Water and East Streets within the district, and the blocks show a wide range of influence. The simple house at 6 Fourth Avenue, for example, displays a full pediment and a detailed entrance complete with sidelights. Another simple house at 300 Water Street is nearly devoid of all architectural detailing, yet its entrance is unmistakably Greek in design.

The major exception to the New York/New England influence on Warren's early architecture is at 215 Fourth Avenue, built in 1833, across from the County Courthouse. Built as a tavern by Ebenezer Jackson, it offered food and lodging to those attending to court business in Warren. Within two years, the building became the Lumbermen's Bank, which was briefly important to Warren's early lumber industry. The bank failed in 1837, however, and the building, renamed the Tanner House, reverted to its original purpose. It is now apartments. Unlike Warren's other early buildings, however, the New Mansion House (as it is now known) is Pennsylvania vernacular Federal style architecture. Constructed of finished stone for the facade and rough cut stone on the sides, it is five bays wide. The central bay is used, on the first floor, for the entrance, and, on the second floor, for a truncated Palladian window. With a more steeply pitched roof than the Federal/Greek Revival style houses discussed above, its roofline is flanked by tall twin chimneys.

The early driving force behind the town's development was the lumber industry. Population and prosperity built slowly rather than in a rush, perhaps because all of northern Pennsylvania experience similarly timed development. The lumber industry has never ceased being an important part of Warren County's industry since the first sawmills were built in the late 18th century. Today as second growth forests reach maturity, the County is notable as part of the most productive hardwood forest in the United States.

It is clear, however, that the early sawmills were seen as the main harbingers of civilization. In the County histories which have been produced periodically since 1887, the dates of the first sawmill establishments are recounted township after township. The earliest was in 1797 when Daniel Jackson arrived from Ithaca, New York, to build a sawmill and grist mill one mile north of the present City of Warren. More mills were built before 1810 in the northern part of the County, and, by 1842, the first mill was built in Eldred Township in the extreme southwestern corner of the County. The first major lumber raft to reach New Orleans from Warren County was shipped in 1806. As late as 1855 (in 1845 the first wave of lumbering peaked) Captain Hall of Warren shipped a lumber raft to Cincinnati which contained 1,500,000 feet of boards and covered nearly two acres. It was the largest recorded lumber raft ever to navigate the Ohio River. The usual destination for a Warren County's lumber, however, was Pittsburgh.

It is evident, however, Warren experienced little new growth during the 1850s and early 1860s. The discovery of oil in nearby Titusville in 1859 was regarded initially as a localized event for the Titusville-Oil City area. The lumber industry in Warren County, if not in actual decline, was no longer expanding. It is perhaps this economic stagnation which accounts for the absence in Warren's architectural landscape of the Gothic Revival style, the only style not well represented in the City's proposed district. The Gothic Revival style's popularity coincides almost exactly with this economic slowdown, and, since the Gothic Revival style was popular in both New York and Pennsylvania, regional preferences cannot explain its absence here.

Warren's entire economic and architectural history changed, however, in early 1875 when David Beaty, drilling for natural gas on his newly acquired estate east of the Conewango Creek, struck oil. His well produced 100 to 200 barrels a day and drew swarms of oil speculators. By June, 1875, a second well, drilled by another prominent oilman named John Bell, was producing 200 barrels per day. Warren quickly developed into a major oil center. By May, 1876, there were fifteen derricks in the Warren oil field, and a new pipeline ran from the wells across the Conewango Creek to a railroad loading dock. To protect the remaining land, the Warren Borough Council, in 1876, passed an ordinance prohibiting the drilling of wells within the Borough limits.

By late 1877, over-drilling had generated a decline in Warren's oil industry, but subsequent strikes throughout the county reopened the market which continues in operation to the present time. With a railroad transportation system already in place, Warren became a center for related oil service industries, including the cutting of lumber for oil rigs, the production of railroad tank cars by the Struthers Iron Works, the laying of pipeline and railroad tracks, and the refining of oil. The oil industry's continued development throughout the late nineteenth century spurred additional industrial and commercial development throughout the period. While the Warren Historic District contains no resources directly related to the industrial processing of lumber or oil, the buildings within the district reflect the commercial growth which these industries spawned.

The discovery of oil marked Warren's passage from a small rural town to a progressive industrial community. From 1880 to 1920, the Borough's population grew by almost 400%. Oil and oil related industries dominated the economy. By the early twentieth century, Warren had 31 petroleum related enterprises, including seven natural gas companies, eight businesses producing oil by-products, three machine shops/foundries specializing in oil drilling tools, four oil well supply stores, several oil container companies, two torpedo manufacturing firms, and three pipeline companies. Thirteen refineries were located within six miles of Warren. Today, the headquarters of United Refining Company (213 Second Avenue) built in 1930, is the only surviving building in the district which directly connected to the community's historic oil industry.

As the seat of county government, Warren has historically held a place of importance within the county. Lawyers, judges, county clerks and other government employees lived in town, and visitors from around the county came to Warren to conduct legal business. Land sales, leases, partnerships and other legal transactions assumed a new importance with the county's oil discoveries and brought additional business to Warren. The building of Warren's second courthouse in 1875-1877 coincided exactly with the first flush of wealth from the oil boom. Listed in the National Register, the courthouse (204 Fourth Avenue) was designed by Buffalo architect M. E. Beebe in the fashionable Second Empire style, topped by a clock tower and a statue of Justice. The use of Ohio stone trim, Georgia pine floors, and pressed brick from Buffalo attests to Warren's newfound wealth and its connection to the rest of the country through advances in transportation. The newspaper proudly noted that the tower's clock was made to order in New York City and the bell was cast in Cincinnati.

With the prosperity of oil, goods and services offered by Warren's merchants and businessmen dramatically increased. Warren came to serve as a commercial center for the region. Groceries, laundries, restaurants, billiard rooms, theaters, tailors, blacksmiths, dentists, druggists, hardware stores and many other businesses catered to the needs of the growing population. Five new banks, twelve new hotels and 21 new contractors/builders appeared during the forty year period after 1875. Most of the buildings which reflected Warren's commercial success are part of today's streetscapes. Warren's position as a regional financial center can be seen in the 1892 Renaissance Revival National City Bank building (315 Second Avenue) and the circa 1900 Colonial Revival PNC Bank building (304 Second Avenue). Blocks of substantial masonry buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue, Second Avenue and Liberty Street housed the many businesses and firms which flourished downtown during this period.

Successful businessmen had profound effects on the architectural landscape of Warren during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1882, wealthy industrialist Thomas Struthers offered to donate a library to the citizens of Warren. In order to provide revenue for the library, an opera house, a third-floor lodge hall and first-floor retail spaces were added to the building plan. Completed in 1884 at the cost of $80,000, the Struthers Library (302 Third Avenue) is a substantial three-story, brick building with a corner tower. The building is a showplace, attesting to the community's growing century aspirations for new forms of education and entertainment. Listed in the National Register and restored in the 1980s, the Struthers Library now hosts professional summer theater, special performances, and movies. Struthers was also responsible for a number of other buildings which stand in the district including the Struthers Hotel, located in Warren's downtown at the corner of Liberty Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Struthers built it in order to take advantage of the influx of oil speculators and traveling businessmen into the region. Built in the commercial Italianate style so popular in the late-nineteenth century; today this building is one of a small number of mixed-use buildings in the district, housing both retail businesses and apartments. Like Struthers, other community industrialists poured money into businesses, banks, social and fraternal clubs and fashionable homes in the next 40 years.

While there were many working class houses built in the district during this period, Michael Weber in his book, Social Change in an Industrial Town has noted that by the late nineteenth century unskilled laborers were increasingly living on the outskirts of Warren, not in the originally laid out city. Weber states that, "the heavily populated older sections of town could not accommodate industrial expansion." Instead newly arrived workers tended to settle in the newer areas across the Allegheny River, and west and southeast of Warren's original inlots and well away from the district's boundaries.

Most of Warren's buildings were constructed by local carpenters and builders; however, a number of houses within the historic district were architect-designed. Architect Charles Marston opened offices in Warren in the mid-1890s. He was followed shortly by two Buffalo architects, Frank Gruninger who came around 1898 and Edward A. Phillips, who moved to Warren around 1903. Phillips became one of the community's most prolific architects, designing and renovating more than a dozen Warren buildings in the next decade. He employed a number of popular historic styles in his work. The Tudor style C. J. Crary House at 508 Liberty Street completed about 1909 is a nice example of the type of fashionable houses being built by Phillips for the wealthier members of the community in the early twentieth century. The Stone Mansion at 505 Liberty Street was completed in 1905 for politician Charles Warren Stone. Phillips's eclectic use of historical architectural detail is readily apparent. The porticos supported by massive Ionic columns, a dentilated cornice, French doors topped by fan windows and the split-curved central dormer flanked by triangular pedimented dormers all give the impression of monumental classicism. Architects from Buffalo, New York, Joseph Bodker, Inc., and elsewhere were also employed to design a number of the buildings within the district. Designed by Edward Phillips, the Logan-Wallace House at 500 Third Avenue is just one of an impressive block of early twentieth century architect-designed buildings intended to house Warren's most prosperous businessmen.

Whether architect-designed or vernacular, the houses built in Warren during the second half of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries had much in common. The regional characteristics of the community's early architecture were giving way to national trends. Many of these houses were built in readily identifiable architectural styles reflecting the growing wealth of the community and the increasingly popular use of architectural resources including plan books, magazines, and mail-order sources. The arrival of Warren's first railroad in 1859 made machine-milled architectural elements more available. As other industrial innovations kept pace with the rise of oil wealth in Warren, mail-order house plans, design books and popular magazines communicated information about new construction methods and the latest architectural styles all over the country. As finished components began to be mass-produced it became easy and comparatively cheaper for even the most basic buildings to incorporate numerous prefabricated parts in their design structure and detailing. While Warren's economic prosperity was due to the regional availability of a natural resource, its architecture was from a national movement and a consumer of products from all over the nation.

Although the Warren Historic District is larger than other listed districts in the region, the range of architectural styles present and its role as a financial, commercial and residential center for the county is readily comparable to other county seat communities in northwestern Pennsylvania including Franklin (National Register listed) and Ridgway (National Register listed). Franklin, Venango County's seat, is the financial home to the early oil industry (1859-1900) and retains similar period architecture and reflects the same wealth as Warren's oil era resources. The Venango County Court House is also of late 19th century Victorian era design and the community retains both commercial and residential resources. Ridgway, Elk County's seat, is much smaller than either Franklin or Warren. Nevertheless, it too has a court house of the period and though its wealth was based on milling and lumber through the late 19th century, it retains the appearance of a moderately wealthy late 19th and early 20th century community. The 120-year architectural record of the Warren's district, like that of Franklin and Ridgway accurately conveys Warren's transformation from a small community settled largely by New York and New England immigrants dependent on local resources and river transportation, to a prosperous town whose building styles and methods reflect connections to larger national trends and markets and industrial development.

In summary, the Warren Historic District is eligible under Criteria A and C as a significant resource in the areas of Architecture, Industry, Commerce, and Government between 1820 and 1949. The significance of the district is found in its ability to convey, as a whole, relationship to important broad patterns of history and architecture through this period of history.

Bibliographic Resources

Archaeological and Historical Consultants, Inc. Historic Structures Inventory and Determination of Eligibility Proposed Fifth Avenue Bridge Replacement, Fifth Avenue Over the Conewango Creek, City of Warren, Warren County, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, June 1994.

Ball, Jean, Helen Morrow, Mary Putnam and Chase Putnam, editors. Historic Buildings in Warren County, Pa, Volume 1-5. Warren: Warren County Historical Society, 1971-1986.

Fowler, T. M, Warren, Pennsylvania, Birdseye View. T. M. Fowler and James B. Moyer, 1895.

Hamlin, Talbot, Greek Revival Architecture in America. London: Oxford University Press, 1944.

Howden, J. A. and A. Odbert, editors. Howden & Odbert's Atlas of Warren County, Pennsylvania. Washington: J. A. Howden & A. Odbert, 1878.

Miller, Ernest C., The History and Development of the Petroleum Industry in Warren County, Pennsylvania 1859-1959. Warren: Warren County Historical Society, Northwest Pennsylvania Historical Study No. 5, 1983.

Sanborn Map Company, Warren, PA. New York: Sanborn Map Company, 1922,1931.

Schenck, J. S., History of Warren County Pennsylvania. Syracuse: D. Mason & Co. Publishers, 1887.

Tranter, Charles R., The Way We Were: A Photographic History of Warren County, Pennsylvania 1860-1930. Warren: Charles R. Tranter & Co., 1981.

Weber, Michael P., Social Change in an Industrial Town: Patterns of Progress in Warren, Pennsylvania, from Civil War to World War I. University Park: The Pennsylvania University Press, 1976.

  1. Serkownek, Edith; Goodling, James; Winans, David, Warren Historic District, Warren County PA, nomination document, 1998, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Warren Historic District Map

Street Names
3rd Avenue West • 4th Avenue • 5th Avenue West • 6th Avenue West • Clark Street • East Street • Hazel Street • Henry Street • Hickory Street • Langdon Drive • Laurel Street • Liberty Street • Maple Place • Market Street • Melrose Place • Nesmith Place • Pennsylvania Avenue West • Rankin Street • Route 6 • Taft Place • Water Street • Watson Place • Wren Way

**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
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