The Eries, Delawares, and Shawnee called the land on which the city of Warren is situated Conewango, after the creek that flowed south from Lake Chautauqua in New York. Warren is one of seven western Pennsylvania towns created by the state between 1783 and 1795 to stimulate settlement on lands bordering Indian territory. Other than the large land speculators, few settlers came initially. Permanent settlement began in 1806 and the village became a borough in 1832 with a population of 358. A grid plan, reminiscent of Philadelphia's first settlement, was laid out on four hundred acres at the confluence of Conewango Creek and the Allegheny River. The town centered on the diamond at the intersection of Market and High (now 4th Avenue) streets. The only indication that this intersection was set aside as civic or public space is the courthouse on one corner. No other civic buildings are located here, and the commercial district never reached here from the river's edge.
A water-powered gristmill and several industries focused the town's growth on the banks of the Allegheny River. Between 1820 and 1845, the lumber industry dominated the economy. Logs were floated down the Allegheny for sale in Pittsburgh and beyond. Later, oil was pumped and shipped.
Warren has an array of large and often high-style houses along Liberty and Market streets between 2nd and 7th avenues, and along 2nd through 5th avenues from East to Laurel streets. This is the core of the residential section, with Greek Revival houses dating from the 1830s to Queen Anne and Colonial Revival houses at the turn of the twentieth century, all of them on spacious lots similar to those in Franklin and Titusville. Warren's prosperity lasted from 1875 through World War II, as evident in residences built for oil tycoons, bankers, barrel makers, and refinery owners. Many were designed by architects with national reputations. Warren has been wise in marketing and reusing their historic buildings as law offices and apartments, rather than replacing them. The Blair Corporation, founded as the New Process Company in 1910, moved into several existing brick buildings in 1926 and has combined them to form a handsome three-story maroon brick Art Deco headquarters with ribbon windows (1927, Austin Company, Fisher Architects, and Creal and Hyde Architects; 220 Hickory Street). Even the new construction conforms to traditional designs. The Municipal Building (1937; 318 W. 3rd Avenue) by Lawrie and Green, a Harrisburg firm, imitates elements from Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
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