Touring Warren County, PA - Small Town, Big Value
By Ruth Seebeck
Warren County's history is intimately tied to native Indian tribes and the first westward push of American settlers. The Chautauqua-to-Ohio waterways were considered strategically important to the Indians, as well as the French, British and Americans. The Senecas, now in nearby Salamanca NY, were the original inhabitants along the Allegheny River and its tributaries. Chief Cornplanter fought with Britain during the Revolutionary War, and later negotiated treaties with President Washington. Conewango, means "walking slowly", and refers to the usually placid waters of the creek that connects Chautauqua Lake in nearby New York with the Allegheny River.
Warren was named for Revolutionary War hero, General Joseph Warren. He died at Bunker Hill, and had no actual ties to Warren County. Fourteen counties, one fort and five ships have been named in his honor.
General William Irvine, also a war hero, surveyed Warren in 1795. The general received a land grant along the Brokenstraw Creek. His oldest son, lived there briefly. His grandson, Dr. William Irvine, settled there. William's last surviving granddaughter died in 1963.
Imagine for a moment that it's two centuries ago. There are fortunes to be made in the stately forests and fertile valleys of the western Alleghenies. Lumbermen and traders established shipping routes. Farmers and families soon followed. Oil flowed and fortunes accumulated. By the mid-1800's, Warren was a thriving community. The buildings of the 28-block historic district reflect the varied architectural tastes of the newly wealthy Warrenites.
Day 1: The Warren County Historical Society is a good place to start (M-F). The 1873 mansion houses rooms of antiques and old photos. Spend a leisurely half hour or more on your own, or call ahead for a guided tour. Before you leave, pick up a brochure of the Historic District Walking Tour. This around-the-block walk showcases twelve of Warren's finest historic buildings. From an 1830's cottage to the 1876 three-story Courthouse, you'll learn a bit of the history of the families who lived here.
One block south of the tour route on Market Street is the Warren Public Library. Enjoy the architecture, statuary and art gallery in this 1916 structure. If you like to read, check out their Book Cellar for great deals on used books. One block north of the tour route is the Horton House B&B. Stop in anytime for a "5-cent tour" of this late 19th century home, or stay the night. It's the only place in town with an outdoor hot tub, beverage bar and wood-burning fireplaces. Romantic...
The Liberty Street Café is a cozy nook in downtown Warren for a leisurely libation. This world-class café offers the finest in sushi, seafood and Beaux Arts cuisine. They sometimes have live jazz on Thursday or Friday evenings.
For funky fun and good food, try Legends Restaurant on Jackson Avenue. Dine in a caboose ... beside a 1949 pink Cadillac ... or al fresco on the deck. Antiques, oldies and shareable-sized portions 'rule' at Legends.
Another great eatery is the Draft House on Pennsylvania Ave E. This bar-cum-restaurant has mouth-watering beef-on-wick, Reuben sandwiches, crisp salads, a varied dinner menu and nightly specials. It's great for lunch (except weekends) or dinner.
For evening entertainment, check the schedule at the Struther's Library Theater. If something is happening - GO! Whatever is playing - shows, plays, movies - it's always excellent. Take time to explore the building, circa 1883. The Struthers is home to the Warren Players' Club, one of the oldest continuously operating amateur theater companies in the nation. The troupe has performed for more than seven decades.
Day 2: Head west on Route 6/62 to visit the Amish Outlet for hand-crafted items and home-made foods. The area Visitor's Center is another half-mile on the left. Stop in for brochures and information on what's happening in "Kinzua Country".
Tour the Wilder Museum, just off Route 62 in Irvine. Displays include Indian artifacts, 'women in WWII', and the DeFrees firearms collection. The museum often hosts special programs and changing exhibits.
For nature-lovers, get outdoors at Buckaloons Recreation Area. A flat one-mile interpretive trail is an easy and peaceful walk. The trail meanders along Irvine Run and the Allegheny River. It's particularly beautiful in the fall.
Stop for lunch at Richard's Restaurant on Route 6 in Youngsville for sandwiches, homemade soups and home-style entrees. While you're in Youngsville, stop in the new gallery, Allegheny Artistry, on Main Street.
Afternoon activities could include a driving tour of Underground Railroad sites, horseback riding at an area ranch, or a trip 'down river' to Tidioute. Just north of Tidioute is the Simpler Times Museum. Dedicated to the area's major industries, it features antique tractors and engines, plus farming and logging displays.
For dinner, stop at any of the local restaurants. If you're back in Warren, dine at Fernwood. Don't let the exterior fool you. The chef is excellent and servers are prompt and friendly. Specialties include steaks and seafood. It's a local favorite.
Tonight, if the Library Theater is 'dark', go to Soldiers & Sailors Park for 'Music in the Park'. Live bands play Friday and Saturday evenings throughout the summer.
There's limited seating, so bring your own blanket/lawn chair. Wander along the riverwalk at Breezewood Landing adjacent to the park.
Day 3: This morning, have breakfast at the Peppermill Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue E. They feature home-cooking and quick service. Head out Route 59, stopping at Kinzua Dam and Big Bend Visitor Center.
Further east on Rt 59 is Rimrock Overlook, with trails through glacier-strewn bolders and magnificent views of the reservoir and mountains. In June the area is vibrant with mountain laurel, Pennsylvania's state flower. Rimrock offers easier trails than Jake's Rocks, which is across the valley (other side of Casey Bridge).
During the summer, nosh at Docksiders Café, adjacent to Wolf Run Marina. Casual dining on the deck or inside (Tell them 'easy on the ice'.). The view of the reservoir and hills is relaxing. Sunday afternoon, live entertainment begins at 3:00.
If you still have time and energy, backtrack to Route 6 and head east toward Sheffield.
Allegheny Cellars Winery is open until 6 p.m. daily for tasting, tours and purchases. It's one of Warren County's newest attractions.
We hope you'll try a mini-vacation in Warren County. There's a wealth of things to do and see - more than could be included here. Pick your favorites and come soon!
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