With plans in progress for the Sesquicentennial celebration of the Incorporation of the Village of Warwick in 1867, a new exhibit of photographs from the archives of the Warwick Historical Society is now on display in the foyer of the Village Hall, located at 77 Main St. in Warwick. The photos show some of the buildings built in Warwick from 1863 to 1868 which are still standing although some have been repurposed.
New Churches Built in the Village
Those were exciting years for the Village. For starters, three new churches were con-structed. The Methodist Church, now the Clock Tower Building, was built in 1867 and its tall steeple was removed in 1918 when it was struck by lightning. Devout parishioner, Samuel Monell, and his three sons donated the bricks for the church, all of which they had made by hand from clay found in a swamp near Wickham Lake. At the time of its construction, half the funds to build its organ were donated by Andrew Carnegie, who apparently believed that music in churches was as important as libraries in villages.
The Calvary Baptist Church, also known as the New School Baptist Church, was built on West St. It is now a United Marshall Arts facility. Ezra Sanford, Jr., who lived in the General Hathorn house, broke from the Old School Baptist Church with five other families and started the new church in 1866. Its cornerstone was laid on January 4, 1867. The following Sunday, four persons were baptized by total immersion in the Warwick creek in the presence of a large congregation. Later baptisms were conducted by full immersion in a receptacle placed in the front of the church, undoubtedly preferable to a dunk in the creek, especially during the winter months.
Christ Episcopal Church, which had been incorporated two years earlier, built a board-and-batten building on South St. in 1866 at a cost of $7,000, a fortune by standards of the day. Ivy Tulin’s book entitled, “Upon This Rock…The Episcopal Community of Warwick, NY” is an interesting history of Christ Church with detailed records of its rectors, wardens and vestry, as well as photos of local buildings and church records.
National Hotel & Demerest Hall
The exhibit also includes an illustration (seen here) from the 1875 Beers’ Atlas of Orange County which shows the National Hotel and Demerest Hall, built in 1863 by Thomas Demerest. The Hall was the venue for the first Village Board meetings and served as a community building with lectures, concerts, and dances, as well as a place to vote. The hotel later burned and was replaced in 1889 with the Demerest Hotel, which still commands a prominent place on the corner of South St. and Railroad Ave.
Warwick Has Two Local Newspapers
The year 1866 also saw the founding of the Warwick Advertiser by Leonard Cox, a former elder of the Old School Baptist Meeting House. After a disagreement with Elder Gilbert Beebe, Cox was excluded from that church and decided to start a newspaper. A page from an 1866 Advertiser is included in the exhibit. The Advertiser’s first home was a building on the corner of Colonial and Forester Avenues, later razed and now the site of the Bradner Building. The Warwick Valley Dispatch, Warwick’s other local newspaper, was founded in 1885 by George F. Ketchum.
Warwick Cemetery Dedicated
The Warwick Cemetery was dedicated on June 29, 1866. Mr. B. F. Hathaway, of Stamford, CT., the architect, whose work designing “rural cemeteries” also included the Laurel Grove Cemetery in Port Jervis, NY, was on hand to provide information on the size and cost of lots. The 27 acres of the cemetery grounds had once been a part of the first Thomas Welling’s Pioneer Farms.
Minutes of First Village Board Meetings
Tucked safely away in a metal cabinet in the archives of the Warwick Historical Society is a well-worn, slightly patched but still sturdy volume containing the minutes of Village Board’s first meetings, written in the beautiful cursive handwriting that every school child had to learn in those days. The first page records a special meeting held on April 15, 1867. “In accordance with an act of the Legislature Incorporating the Village of Warwick,” three men were named and appointed Inspectors of Election for the first Annual Election to elect Village Trustees the following month. With a total of 133 votes cast, John Welling was elected the first President of the Village with 80 votes. John Welling’s farmhouse is now the Dautaj Restaurant, located at 36 Oakland Ave.
On June 5, 1867, the new officers met to select the Village ordinances. Strict rules were laid out and each ordinance begins with the commanding words, “Be it ordained.” Among the more colorful in a long list were:
- Sidewalks: “No person or persons shall drive, back, or in any manner place any cart, wagon, sleigh or slide or carriage upon any of the sidewalks…or any person load, ride, drive or lead any horse or other animal…any firewood…mix any mortar on the side-walk under penalty of $5 for each such offense.”
- Transportation: there is to be “no riding or driving any horse or other animal through any of the streets at a greater rate of speed than six miles per hour, the fine for which offense would be not less than $5, nor more than $20.”
- Nuisances, Riots, Disturbances: “a fine of $5.00 to anyone in the village who cries or hollers ‘fire’ or any other unusual noise without good or sufficient cause for so doing.”
- And finally, “it was unlawful to play ball, fly a kite, roll a hoop, fire a pistol, fire crackers or other fireworks, throw stones or sticks in any of the streets, with a fine of $2.00 for each offense.”
Okay, kids, now you know the rules of the Village.
150 Years Later
One hundred and fifty years later we see the Village with a population of some 6,000 people. Its downtown area is part of 130 acres along Rte. 94 which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, thanks to our enlightened Mayor, Michael Newhard, and others who recognize the value of preserving the old buildings and maintaining the character and charm of the past. Kudos are offered to the Warwick Valley Gardeners for the flowers that abound along the Village streets and on the Railroad Green throughout the summer months.
In short, Warwick is blessed to have concerned and active citizens as well as a dedicated Mayor and Trustees. Happy Birthday, Village of Warwick.