October 31, 2020
Nestled in a shallow mountain valley along the upper Allegheny River, Warren looks like many other central Pennsylvania small towns. Its population stands at 10,000 or so, and the streets here are lined with tall deciduous trees. Often shaded behind those trees are old Victorian homes dating back to Warren’s oil and timber boomtime in the late 1800s. But prosperity has come back to town, as you’ll see below.
In the fall it’s absolutely beautiful here. A stroll down 5th Avenue in Warren isn’t at all like a stroll down 5th Avenue in Manhattan or even in Pittsburgh, but it’s striking in its own way. I used this photo as my PC desktop background for a while.
Imagine sitting on the front porch of this fine home, enjoying a coffee or a whiskey depending on the time of year.
Just one more home please. 5th Avenue in Warren runs along the base of a mountain, as seen off to the right in this photo.
The Warren County Courthouse is just down the street.
Built in 1876, the cornerstone says July 4, 1876, or the day of America’s first Centennial celebration.
Renovated in 1999, the courthouse was originally topped by a steel statue of Lady Justice, which has since been replaced with a fiberglass version. The original statue currently sits in a first-floor display case. According to the historical notes, the replacement to a fiberglass version was undertaken since fiberglass is better able to withstand lightning strikes, other weather, and gunshots. Gunshots? Yes, the notes mentioned that when taken down in 1999 the old Lady was found bearing bullet marks. What happened? Were bored residents using her as target practice from their front porches on quiet evenings? It doesn’t say.
The history of this part of north-central Pennsylvania includes conflicts with Seneca and other Iroquois tribes. One war chief named Cornplanter, son of a Dutch trader and a Seneca woman, led negotiations with the new United States after the end of the Revolutionary War. Wikipedia has an entry on Cornplanter here. On his painting, found displayed prominently inside the courthouse, Cornplanter is shown with an American flag draped over his left arm with the shadow of George Washington over his right shoulder,
Warren was named for Revolutionary War hero General Joseph Warren, who died at the Battle of Bunker Hill. The town honors him with a statue in the park, below the tree-lined ridge at the north end of town.
Warren has always been an oil town, and its proximity to the Marcellus Shale and its fracking activity helps with its prosperity today. Storefronts downtown along Pennsylvania Avenue (main street) are mostly occupied. I hope the prosperity lasts — beautiful, stately small towns like this deserve a break.
Every old Pennsylvania town has a statue honoring its Union veterans from the Civil War. Warren’s statue is at the base of the Hickory Bridge over the Allegheny River, at one corner of the main intersection in town.
Downtown Warren lies along the banks of the upper Allegheny River — far, far upstream from the river’s confluence with the Monongahela at Pittsburgh. Here, the Allegheny is just a big mountain stream.
Although Warren has only 10,000 residents, it does have some culture. The Struthers Library Theatre uses the old town library building for events. A list of events can be found on their website here. It’s impressive. A photo of the classic venue is below.
Of course, the new library building is pretty nice too. I like the classical references along the exterior walls.
Finally, and not at all least importantly, every cool town needs a cool cigar lounge. Allow me to present Nice Ash Cigars and Lounge (link here), a classy part of the Warren nightlife. Nice Ash has two additional locations in Depew and Fairport, New York — but why cross the border into New York (no-fracking country) when you can enjoy a cigar in Pennsylvania?
As the sign on the window says, Nothing Beats a Nice Ash!
All photos were taken by the author either on October 4th or October 8th, 2019.
A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.
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