Warwick Village Historic District
The Warwick Village Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
The village of Warwick is the largest of several villages located in the southern part of Orange County, New York. It is situated west of the Warwick Mountains in a broad valley which is characterized by rolling hills rising from rich bottom lands.
The historic district includes most of the older portions of the village and includes both commercial and residential areas. Of the 208 structures in the district, two date from the eighteenth century and thirty-four were constructed before 1850. The village expanded greatly during the last half of the nineteenth century; more than half of the district was built between 1860 and 1900. The proximity of New York City, less than fifty miles away and easily accessible by railroad and, later, by automobile, provided continual growth for Warwick. The major residential areas of the district are distinguished by at least thirty exceptional residences built between 1900 and 1930. An unusual feature of the district is the collection of distinctive domestic architecture of Clinton Wheeler Wisner (1856-1904), a prolific, local architect. Wisner helped to determine the character of several of the streets developed between 1884 and 1900. There are 21 structures in the district built after 1930 which do not contribute to its significance.
The physical integrity of the buildings in the village is unusually good. Almost all of the larger residences are maintained in their original condition and the smaller village houses retain their scale, setting and associations.Strip development and organized urban renewal have bypassed the village, leaving its architectural heritage largely intact. Non-contributing structures have appeared in the commercial district, however.
The historic district is oriented around Warwick's Main Street, the commercial thoroughfare through the village. Radiating residential streets comprise the majority of significant architecture in the community and are included to the limits of their integrity or period character. These are residential streets with the exception of Railroad Avenue, which parallels the train tracks and is distinguished by the village's passenger station (now reused as a newspaper office) and nineteenth-century railroad hotels, boarding houses and warehouses. North of Colonial Avenue, Main Street becomes known as Maple Avenue and eventually the state highway to Goshen. Maple Avenue contains large turn-of-the-century houses on large lots with generous front lawns. The district extends to a point where more modest houses of a more recent date characterize the streetscape. Colonial Avenue, the Old King's Highway, angles off Main in a northerly direction and contains noteworthy architectural residences up to the village limits.
The two streets flanking the Baptist Church, High and Church Streets, contain Warwick's early nineteenth century housing and form a context for the understanding of the settlement area and its growth. South Street near Railroad Avenue contains structures of a form, scale and setting representative of village development in the second and third quarters of the nineteenth century including particularly distinctive examples of residential and ecclesiastical architecture. Beyond the district, South Street becomes less distinguished and later in period. South of Railroad Avenue, Main Street is renamed Oakland Avenue and, after approximately a block of transitional commercial architecture, becomes the most distinctive residential street in the village. The district extends to the limit of this environment to an intersection where commercial development was introduced in the later twentieth century. Contiguous to this area of the district, Clinton Avenue is a distinct entity defined by the small-scale houses designed by Clinton Wheeler Wisner, a local architect. The street represents a late nineteenth century middle-class neighborhood significant in the history of the village.
The descriptions which follow are organized by street to provide a comprehensive description of this complex district.
The oldest section of the village is in the vicinity of the Colonial Avenue-Main Street-Forester Avenue intersection. The exceptional significance of the historic buildings in this area overcome the ill effects of intrusive modern structures at this heavily altered intersection. The Shingle House, built in 1764 by Daniel Burt, is the oldest surviving house in the community. A rare example of a frame, shingled residence in the region, the saltbox structure is presently maintained as a historic house museum by the Warwick Historical Society.
Directly opposite the Shingle House on Forester Avenue is the Smith-Welling House. Built in the 1830s, the mansard roof was added in 1870; it is recognized as one of the architecturally distinguished historic structures in the village. Converted into Warwick's first hospital at the turn of the century, it has since been used for medical offices.
Two of Warwick's historic landmarks are located on the west side of Main Street at its intersection with Colonial and Maple Avenues. Baird's Tavern is a stone structure with a gambrel roof which was built in 1766. Constructed to serve as an inn on the Kings Highway from Easton, Pennsylvania to Newburgh, New York, it was a known stopping place for many Colonial and Revolutionary era travelers, among them, George Washington, John Trumbull and the Marquis de Chastellux. The tavern is now used for law offices. North of Baird's Tavern is the James Hoyt House, constructed in 1808. This two-story frame residence retains its distinctive Federal style, form and details as well as later nineteenth century additions and alterations. In 1967, the structure was sensitively adapted for use as a banking office.
South of the intersection on the east side of Main Street, the Warwick Historical Society operates a second museum in what is commonly known as the 1810 House. This story-and-a-half, four-bay frame structure was built by the Olmstead family. Like the earlier Shingle House, it reflects the early English influence in this area of Orange County. From the street, it is a visual component of a larger property containing the Old School Baptist Church, also built in 1810. Beyond an enclosed garden near the house and prominently sited on a rise of land, the church is a focal point for the old part of the village. It is one of the most significant and intact Federal era churches in the region. Azariah Ketcham, whose nearby house on Church Street has recently been restored by the Historical Society, is known to have been the builder of the imposing structure.
The Village Hall, located on Main Street opposite the 1810 House, church and park was constructed as a Presbyterian Church in about 1847. Abandoned by its congregation for more modern quarters, the Greek Revival style building with its massive Doric porch was moved to its present site in 1889 and converted into a firehouse. Garage doors installed in its facade at that time have been since removed although the building still is used by the fire and police departments and as a village hall.
The balance of this part of the district is largely composed of modest, yet intact pre-Civil War housing which survives from early 19th century Warwick. Located on the southwestern end of Colonial Avenue, on Church Street north of the Baptist Church, and on High Street south of the church, these houses contribute to the historic significance of the district. The historic context on Main Street has been compromised by the intrusions of three automotive shops/gas stations and a modern but compatible post office. Two additional surviving nineteenth-century structures north of the church on the east side of Main Street, a third adjacent to the village hall and a distinctive 20th-century library building constitute the balance of the streetscape.
There is a dramatic, visual transition as the traveller moves from this cohesive, historical group to the denser commercial business district with its architectural and visual diversification. The structures here are largely of the post-Civil War period and retain a significant amount of architectural detail, particularly on the upper stories. There has been minimal attrition and only three recent structures perceptibly intrude on the commercial business district. Certain distinguished buildings stand out from this configuration: the Odd Fellows Hall constructed in 1860, a department store with Romanesque Revival detailing, 1890, a brick store block and a Masonic Lodge erected in 1870. Main Street is slightly inclined and narrow. At the base of the hill, the road bends, crossing the creek and the railroad, and emerges into the open vista of Oakland Avenue which climbs from the creek depression.
The commercial business district terminates at Railroad Avenue which runs in an easterly direction from Main Street to South Street. The former Lehigh & Hudson River Railroad Station is the focal point in this section of predominantly warehouse and hotel buildings. The Lehigh and Hudson River Railway Company, consolidated in 1882, was considered to be "the smoothest and fastest link for freight between the western and New England states"; it was also the first railroad to use refrigerated milk cars. Passenger service on the Lehigh was discontinued in 1939 and bankruptcy was declared in 1972, yet freight cars continue to pass through Warwick. This station was constructed in 1893 at a cost of $10,000. A rusticated stone structure with a porte-cochere providing access to the second story via a unique circular staircase, this noteworthy building was converted for use as a newspaper office (the Advertiser and Photo News) in 1978; the former signal section on the second floor is now an architect's office.
Opposite the depot, Billy Barnes's Turf Exchange, c. 1860, was built to accommodate railroad passengers. The Warwick Valley House, 1887, on Main Street, also survives from the railroad era. The most notable surviving hotel structure is the Demarest House, erected in 1887 on the site of the earlier hotel structure. This four-story brick and terra-cotta building with its unique roof design retains its notable details including its two-story porch. While the Turf Exchange no longer houses travellers and the Warwick Valley House contains a local newspaper office, the Demarest House continues to function as a hotel.
SOUTH STREET assumed its present character in the 1860's as a result of the growth of the railroad. The section of the street included in the district contains four distinctive examples of architecture unique in the village. A large two-story frame residence with Gothic style ornament begins the streetscape from its position behind the Demarest House. Two churches, a board-and-batten Episcopal Church built in 1865 and a stone Catholic Church built in 1903, retain their integrity and make a strong contribution to the district. An Italianate residence, similar in scale and proportions to the Gothic style house noted above, displays unusual details and is prominently sited building on the street.
OAKLAND AVENUE was called Main Street until 1875. It begins at Railroad Avenue in the village and ends at the village edge where it connects with the highway to New Jersey. Emerging from the commercial district, Oakland Avenue is filled with large late 19th century residences set back from the tree-lined avenue. Many have been converted into apartments without altering the exterior integrity of the buildings. Some outstanding examples of Warwick's late nineteenth century architecture are located here. There are two architect-designed cottages by E. G. W. Dietrich, one at 40 Oakland Avenue, which was constructed by the Welch Brothers in 1890, and one known as the Anchorage at 32 Oakland which was erected in 1884. The first is a Queen Anne style house with a gable roof, turret, and highly articulated facade. It was the home of Dr. Alva Edsall Wisner, prominent village dentist at the turn of the century. The Anchorage is sheathed with variously shaped wood shingles and has many projecting gables, a multi-arched porch and stained-glass windows throughout. There are tile fireplaces and decorative panelling in the interior.
Dulce Domum, 30 Oakland Avenue, was designed by Clinton Wheeler Wisner for his cousin in 1884. It has a picturesque quality with a steeply pitched gable and much decorative woodwork. The eclectic character of the street includes 43 Oakland, constructed in 1900, which retains its Federal Revival detail; 27 Oakland Avenue, an elaborate Second Empire house, constructed in 1870, which exhibits a well-preserved, slate covered mansard roof and wooden cornice; and the John L. Welling house, 36 Oakland Avenue, a large, intact Greek Revival residence constructed in 1855, now functioning as a restaurant, The Warwick Inn. The James A. Ogden house, c. 1880, (31 Oakland) displays porch decoration indicative of the quality of design on Oakland Avenue homes. This meticulously maintained structure has a new side addition disguised by an extension of the original porch and its decoration.
The balance of the residences on Oakland Avenue share the same scale and setbacks as the individually mentioned houses. More modest in scale and detail, they contribute in feeling and association to the district. New structures, notably the Warwick Savings Bank and a recently built funeral home, have retained the scale, form, placement and character of the historic architecture, but do not contribute to the period of significance.
Portions of side streets with similar residential characters between Oakland Avenue and South Street have been included within the district between South Street and Oakland Avenue where integrity and significance has permitted. The supporting residences on First Street, Second Street, Third Street and Linden Place are consistent with feeling and character of this large residential section of the district.
MAPLE AVENUE, formerly called the Florlda-Goshen Road, is spacious, tree-lined and filled with large estates constructed largely at the end of the 19th century. Like Oakland Avenue at the south end of the village, visually striking vistas distinguished by landscaped and well-maintained lawns characterize this area as Main Street loses its dense, commercial character to become a county highway (Route 94) leading to the nearby village of Florida.
On the northwest corner of the intersection of Grand Street and Maple Avenue is the former Grinnell Burt house, c. 1885, now incorporated into St. Anthony's Hospital. The original stone and shingle residence was designed by New York City architect, E. G. W. Dietrich. Dietrich also designed the Reformed Church of America, 1889-90, directly opposite, a large Normanesque structure with a broad steep roof.
The John J. Beattie house, 25 Maple Avenue, c. 1888, also a Dietrich design, directly north of St. Anthony's Hospital, is a large, shingled residence with unusual Romanesque details. North of the Beattie house is the James Chamberlain estate, designed by Dietrich in 1887 and constructed by James R. Christie. This large estate with formal gardens, well and carriage house is invisible from the street behind an expansive, picturesque park.
The residences north of the church continue the theme of large late 19th century residences. The complex frame Queen Anne style structures are interspersed with one earlier Greek Revival house and examples of the 20-century Colonial Revival style. All contribute to the distinctive character of Warwick's suburban neighborhoods.
COLONIAL AVENUE, called Hudson Street in 1875 and East Main in 1903, becomes the Kings Highway outside of the village boundaries and leads east to Sugar Loaf and to Chester. The original village of Warwick in the vicinity of Colonial Avenue, Forester Avenue and Upper Main has already been described; its early farmhouses and later small tenant houses are indicative of its historical evolution. Towards the outskirts of the village, early 20th century estates with elegant lawns and plantings line the north side of the highway overlooking open land connecting to the agricultural properties beyond the village limits.
CLINTON AVENUE is located east of Oakland Avenue at the southern edge of the village. It is a tree-lined street with tightly spaced late 19th century residences of smaller proportions and lesser detail than the neighboring avenue. The most distinguishing characteristic of the street is the group of houses designed by Clinton Wheeler Wisner in the 1890s. A pair of houses at 23 and 25 Clinton Avenue were designed as mirror images of one another. Alterations over the years have somewhat modified this relationship although Wisner's unusual design, detailing and use of materials is still conspicuously evident. Frame houses composed of multiple gable forms with contrast-ing sidings and classical decoration, Wisner named them the Primrose and the Pansy.
Opposite these houses, on either corner of the Linden Place intersection, are two more eccentric products of Wisner's designs. The Devonshire (1895) is a brick and frame house in a highly stylized English taste with light half-timbering, large roof and decorative shingles. Perhaps Wisner's most noteworthy design, the Warwickshire, was constructed in 1893 of random coursed fieldstone and half-timbered framing. A fifth Wisner designed residence completes the group. The balance of Clinton Avenue, named for the architect/mayor, is included in the district because many of the houses demonstrate the influence of Clinton Wheeler Wiener's designs and represent a distinctive group of intact late 19th century middle-class housing in the village at the periphery of the affluent streets like Oakland Avenue.
The Warwick Historic District is both architecturally and historically significant as a reflection of the growth and evolution of the village from its eighteenth-century origins to its zenith as a suburban and resort community in the early-twentieth century. The district is composed of distinct areas which correspond to periods of the village's development, including the colonial era crossroads around which the community was formed, the commercial street which received impetus when Warwick became a railroad center in a large food-producing region, and the broad avenues lined with large turn-of-the-century residences as New York City's sphere of influence expanded into the countryside. The district as a whole retains its historic character due to the strong physical integrity of its components and the outstanding range of architectural styles and periods (1750-1930) represented by its resources, including exceptional vernacular buildings and distinguished architect-designed houses as well as commercial structures.
The village was not permanently settled until about 1764, with the construction of a two-story frame "saltbox" house by Daniel Burt. Today, the house is in an excellent state of preservation and serves as a museum and headquarters of the Warwick Historical society. The type, form and method of construction reflect the Connecticut origins of the Burt family and serve as a prototype for regional wooden house forms in the eighteenth century and the preference for shingle siding identifiable in this area of Orange County.
A number of stone buildings survive in the Warwick area from this settlement period. Constructed by settlers of English descent, they differ substantially from the more prevalent Dutch ethnic examples in the region. More compact in scale and plan and more formal in design and configuration, the Anglo-stone structures are a distinctive element in the local vernacular building tradition. The Baird Tavern at the intersection of the Kings Highway and the Goshen Turnpike (Main Street) in the historic district is a noteworthy example of the early stone building tradition in Warwick. During its history, it was the scene of significant events and hosted many important persons, including George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
Following the Revolutionary War, the Rev. James Benedict led a congregation of Primitive Baptists to Warwick from Connecticut. In 1810, on a commanding knoll, they constructed a frame meeting house which survives as a distinctive example of Federal style church architecture and is an important component of a group of Primitive Baptist churches in southern Orange County which grew from the Warwick congregation. The church is surrounded by a park and more than a dozen dwellings, a few dating to the early 19th century when the community was focused around the church. Two of the structures have been restored by the historical society and embody the features of vernacular architecture of the period. One (80 Main Street) is a one-and-one-half-story farmhouse type common to the region. The other (21 Church Street) is a stylish Federal style townhouse, two stories tall with distinctive interior appointments.
Other Federal period buildings are scattered in the vicinity of the early intersection. The area has become denser with the addition of later nineteenth century housing; however, the vernacular quality of the architecture has resulted in the continuity of form, scale and materials, notably shingle siding, which contribute to the visual and historic integrity of neighborhood. The buildings on Church and High Streets fronting the Baptist church and park retain the modest designs and proportions of early house forms. Large-scale residences erected in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries along Maple and Colonial Avenues north of the crossroads generally conform to a Colonial Revival taste not as prevalent in contemporaneous development along Oakland Avenue, which is physically removed from Warwick's formative area at the southern end of the village. The William Benedict House (71 Colonial Avenue) at the northern limit of the district is actually a Federal era house built by the son of the Baptist sect's leader that was upgraded in the twentieth-century suburban phase of the vernacular by William Welling Van Duzen, an equally prominent citizen in a later generation.
Warwick village grew slowly in the first half of the nineteenth century. Manufacturing and other industrial activity were concentrated in the nearby hamlets of Bellvale and New Milford, where waterpower drawn from the Longhouse and Wawayanda creeks was more easily obtained. Indeed, Warwick before about 1850 was the smallest of the town's population and commercial centers. The turnpikes, built in the period between 1810 and 1818, were of greater benefit to other communities in the town such as Bellvale, Florida, and Edenville.
Warwick's fortunes changed quite dramatically after 1862 with the opening of a railroad spur line to the Erie mainline in neighboring Chester. The village quickly became the center of banking, retailing, marketing and shipment of agricultural produce (mainly milk), and light manufacturing in the town. In the decade of the 1860s, the village acquired a private secondary school, a weekly newspaper, two banks and a wide variety of specialty stores. By 1870, a vibrant main street had emerged. The town's excellent soil and gentle rolling topography allowed its local farmers to become extremely prosperous dairy and fruit farmers. The Warwick Valley Railroad, built with local capital, fueled this economic boom.
The 1860s and 1870s witnessed the construction of several architecturally distinctive churches, hotels, and commercial establishments, nearly all of which survive intact. A wooden Gothic Revival church, four Italianate hotels and stores, and a number of picturesquely styled Victorian period houses characterize the commercial district north of the railroad and the two major residential streets south of the tracks, South Street and Oakland Avenue. The focus of the village shifted from its colonial center to the intersection of the railroad and Main Street.
Civic architecture such as the train station, hotels, Masonic and Odd Fellows Halls and banks provide a degree of sophistication and dignity unusual in villages of Warwick's size. The small commercial district on Main Street with short masonry blocks and rows is typical of the period although the narrowness of the street and its bending course is in contrast to the open and regular plotting of most agricultural villages. The commercial core is distinguished by Gilvan's Dept. Store (40 Main Street) a highly idiosyncratic example of mercantile architecture.
By the 1890s, descendants of many prosperous farming families in the region had moved to New York City, finding employment in agriculturally related businesses and urban professions. They and others began to build pretentious summer "cottages" in Warwick Village, along Oakland and Maple Avenues, in the Queen Anne and Shingle styles. At least five of these houses were designed by Ernest George Washington Dietrich and represent outstanding examples of large residential architecture in the community and surrounding area. Dietrich's massive and complex Queen Anne style structures, rich in contrasting materials, patterns and details provided models for other neighboring residences in terms of scale, design and setting, particularly Clinton Wheeler Wisner's Dulce Domum (30 Oakland Avenue). Dietrich's ambitious, highly academic house designs elevate these avenues to a higher quality of architectural significance.
Little is recorded concerning Dietrich's career. Born in Pittsburg in 1857 and educated there, he began his career in that city with the firm of Drum and Kuhn. At some point he established an office in New York City, presumably by 1884 when he was working in Warwick. What attracted him to the village is unclear although in addition to the five large houses surviving in the historic district, he is credited with the Reformed Dutch Church on Maple Avenue and the enormous Red Swan Inn, now demolished, which was located on Oakland Avenue just beyond the district limits. Whether Dietrich had family connections or personal ties to the village or county is unknown, and whether he enjoyed other commissions outside the village is a subject for subsequent study. Since he designed the public library in nearby Middletown, New York, broader activity in the area is suggested. Nevertheless, E. G. W. Dietrich (died 1924) provided a distinguished character to the turn-of-the-century development of Warwick.
Oakland Avenue is enhanced by the uniform siting and spacing of its houses, landscaped front lawns and broad width, lined on both sides with shade trees. The suburban landscape principles of the late nineteenth century were well applied here. Dominated by larger properties on its west side and shorter in length of development, Maple Avenue does not share the same spatial quality. For the same reasons, neither does Colonial Avenue yet both provide an impressive entrance into the village unequalled elsewhere in area villages.
Less monumental houses appeared on smaller lots on side streets flanking Oakland Avenue such as Second and Third Streets and Linden Place. The most exceptional examples of these were the highly stylized English Cottage style residences designed by Clinton Wheeler Wisner on Clinton Avenue and Linden Place.
Wisner was a descendant of one of Warwick's earliest settlers. Artistically inclined, Wisner dabbled in painting, architectural design and community planning. Serving three terms as village mayor in the 1890's, he is credited with the restoration of some of the natural charm to the village through a planting program. In 1884, evidently inspired by E. G. W, Dietrich's work on Oakland Avenue, Wisner designed "Dulce Domum," a Shingle style structure very similar to Dietrich's "Anchorage" located on the adjacent property to the south. Following a trip to England where he visited Warwickshire, Wisner designed (1895) the group of fine homes on Clinton Avenue and Linden Place. The houses were highly romanticized interpretations of English cottages using local materials, such as stone from the locally revered Welling Farm, and arts and crafts aesthetics. Pictorial stained-glass windows, inglenooks attributed to English sources discovered by Wisner, and artwork from regional art colonies were combined with more general eclectic details to create truly individualistic interiors.
The early twentieth century is represented in the district as subdivisions were filled out and new tastes and patterns characterized village life. Throughout Warwick's "resort period" in the late nineteenth century, the majority of the village's population was engaged in more middle-class pursuits and life styles. Whether on the older streets in the north end of the village or those peripheral to the expanding avenues at the south, a neat community of modest vernacular village houses evolved with the first quarter of the twentieth century included in its significant period. The small Colonial Revival style residences which were introduced into the historic district area of the village represent a transition to smaller scale suburban prototypes. In this period many of the Queen Anne and Shingle style residences were painted white to conform to the "colonial" aesthetic. (As the result of the prevalent use of shingle siding in Warwick in the eighteenth century, many nineteenth-century structures on lesser streets were shingled when original siding needed rejuvenation). In a more contemporary vain, bungalows and cottage style houses are identifiable within the historic district. The small number of examples in the district are mostly located in the denser, built-up areas in Church and Third Streets and northern Oakland Avenue.
After 1930, additions and alterations have detracted rather than contributed to the architectural significance of the district. Also, after that point the villager history is marked by stasis or decline rather than by growth. A large bank and funeral home were introduced into the Oakland Avenue streetscape, and while of a consistent scale and set-back, their designs are undistinguished in terms of the precedent on the street. The commercial section of the district has experienced a larger degree of alteration as national stores, automobile dealership, gas stations and the post office have introduced their standardized designs and parking lots. The strength of Warwick's significant eighteenth and early nineteenth century architectural specimens in this area, however, still has a determining effect on the overall visual quality of this portion of the district.
Eager, Samuel. An Outline History of Orange County. Newburgh, New York, 1846.
Forester, Frank. The Warwick Woodlands. Warwick, 1921.
Hornby, Eliza Benedict. Under Old Roof Trees. Jersey City, N.J., 1908.
Hull, Richard W. People of the Valleys. Warwick: Warwick Historical Society, 1975.
Ruttenber, E. M. and L. H. Clark. History of Orange County, Philadelphia, 1881.