Window On Warren’s Distant Past

A lot can change in 160 years.

Warren’s waterfront has gone from featuring a mill race and island that was a bustling shipping and receiving area with keel boats, dockworkers, and the occasional steamboat to the current placid and picturesque scene.

A mural created in 1952 to commemorate the day 100 years earlier when two sternwheelers arrived on the same day shows those steamboats alongside that island.

Now the island is part of the rest of the land on the north side of the river. There are no ships – steam or otherwise – making deliveries of potatoes, pork, flour, or other necessities. Keel boats pushed upstream by men with poles are long gone.

According to the granddaughter of the man who commissioned the painting, none of the buildings pictured remain today. Even the remains of a covered bridge are difficult to see.

Ellen Paquette, whose grandfather, Harold Putman, had artist Elton Davis create the mural, said the scene is as accurate as possible.

“My dad remembers my grandpa sitting down at a card table with Elton Davis looking at old pictures,” Paquette said.

They took whatever images were available of the Warren riverfront and pieced together an image that includes everything from the mouth of the Conewango Creek to the covered bridge that extended off of Hazel Street.

The bridge was built in 1839 and fell apart in pieces in 1954, Paquette said. When the sun shines on the river from the right direction, what is left of the piers can still be seen, she said.

The Carver House, which stood where the Kwik Fill gas station is now at the intersection of Hickory Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, may have been the last building left from the 1850s.

Paquette identified the Carver House on the mural as the leftmost of two three-story reddish buildings west of the island. The building was originally built in the 1830s and was a hotel at the time of the 1956 fire which destroyed it.

The painting seems to feature a vantage point across the river from what is now Liberty Street. The Hickory Street bridge now cuts into the view from that location.

The rights to the mural now lie in the hands of the Warren County Historical Society.

“They’ve donated the copyright to the Historical Society as a fundraiser,” Director Michelle Gray said. “We’re extremely appreciative.”