The Conewango Creek comes south from New York to join with the Allegheny River where the site of Warren was reserved as a town by act of Commonwealth Commissioners in 1795. It remained a town in name only for over a decade. Eventually, both settlers and commerce arrived. In 1819, Warren became the seat of government for the County. The natural center of the region’s lumber economy, Warren was used as an early river port for rafts and boats of all descriptions. Steamboats made the difficult trip upriver from Pittsburgh starting as early as 1830. Wealthy lumbermen with operations all over the northern Pennsylvania forests made not only their homes in Warren, but established their banking institutions in the town. The railroad arrived in 1859 giving Warren rail access to not only Erie but the Atlantic Coast to the east and Cleveland and Chicago to the west. The financial resources of the community were aggressively invested in the nearby oil fields during the great days of the Pennsylvania oil excitement and just added to the aggregate wealth of the town. In the late nineteenth century, some thirteen crude oil refineries were located within six miles of Warren.
Though many fine structures from Warren’s Victorian period have been taken down, the place was blessed with so much, a visitor can be overwhelmed trying to see all that has survived. Situated as it is along the splendidly picturesque Allegheny, Warren clearly is one of the finest surviving Victorian communities in America.
The Falconer House at 301 Market Street is an example of the many Italianates constructed in Warren. The low pitch of the roof, the substantially extended eaves accentuated with brackets, the central cupola, the grouping of windows with arched tops in the cupola, the overhead arch of the entrance and the tall windows in the facades are all Italianate influences of the time. The house was built in 1866 by Patrick Falconer who had come to Warren County from Scotland in 1836 at the age of twenty. He was known as a successful farmer and prominent businessman.
A Second Empire was built at 308 Market Street in 1868 by Elial Valentine. The Valentine House is a simple rectangular volume with one-story bays on each side. A Mansard roof, representative of the style, tops the mass. Dormers with pairs of arched windows and a baroque roundel window are part of the roof details. The paired and arched windows in the facades, the second floor balcony and the simple entrance are appropriate for a Second Empire.
The Jamieson House at 311 Market Street is not only a testament to the builder’s appreciation of nineteenth century Second Empire architecture, but a testament to the man’s determination. H. A. Jamieson began construction of this house in the Spring of 1874. In January of 1875 a fire broke out and the uncompleted structure was close to totally destroyed, in some part due to the fact water to fight the fire was 1500 feet away beneath the thick ice covering Conewango Creek. Jamieson chose to rebuild the house and completed it in late 1875. A 125 gallon water tank was placed in the structure’s attic to ensure an adequate supply.
More complex than the usual Second Empire, the mass of the Jamieson House features an offset pavilion on the front facade with an unusually prominent chimney extending above the Mansard roof. Dormers with arched hoods extend beyond the steeply pitched roof surface. The roof cornice is detailed with brackets and large scale dentils. The windows in the facades are crowned with elaborate arched hoods appropriate for a Second Empire.
The Andrew Ruhlman House at 316 Hazel was built in the 1880's and shows the lingering influence of Italianate architecture. The tall arched windows with decorative surrounds all about the first floor, the group of three arched and hooded windows on the second floor facade facing Hazel as well as the hooded windows to both sides, the relatively low pitch of the gables, the overhanging cornice and use of decorative brackets, the arcade of arches supporting the veranda roof, all contribute to the Italianate character of the house. Until recent years, this house featured a centrally located cupola.
John Jefferson retired as an officer in the United States Army and came to Warren to seek his fortune in oil. He met a prominent young lady of Warren, Alice Wetmore, and married her in 1877. In 1890, the Jeffersons built a very different looking Victorian residence at 119 Market Street. The house is an excellent example of Shingle architecture built on an urban lot.
An example of an early half-timbered Tudor can be seen at 307 Market Street. It is the Archibald Scofield House built in 1890. We have pictured the Scofield House in our Styles Section under Tudor. Please refer to that section.
“Historic Buildings in Warren County” Volumes 1 – 5, Warren County Historical Society, 1971 and later.
The Struthers Library Building
The Struthers Library Building at the corner of Liberty Street and Third Avenue was a gift to the community from Thomas Struthers. An impressive Victorian structure with a tower at the southeast corner, the large brick building was opened to the public in 1884. Used originally as a library, opera house and fraternal lodge, the building has been put to many uses over the decades. It has in recent years been renovated and serves today as a theater venue for a variety of performances.
Other attractions include the 1877 Second Empire Warren County Courthouse, a magnificent example of institutional Victorian architecture, and the Warren County Historical Society housed in the Second Empire residence built for Anna and George Wetmore by Anna’s father, Thomas Struthers, in 1873. The house is at 210 Fourth Street and next to the courthouse. The telephone number for the Historical Society is (814) 723-1795
About eight miles to the east of Warren on Route 59 lies the great Kinzua Dam and the Allegheny Reservoir, a spectacular recreational area that extends north into New York.
For Information on the Warren Area
Warren County Vacation Bureau, 2883 Pennsylvania Avenue-West Ext., 800-624-7802
From Bradford drive south on 219 and west on Routes 770 and 59. From Route 17 in New York, near Jamestown, drive south on Route 62. From Oil City drive north on Route 62.