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Warren’s Courthouse Square has roots in Northern Ireland

Courthouse Square in downtown Warren. Electronic image courtesy of Ron Flaviano. 


Courthouse Square in downtown Warren. Electronic image courtesy of Ron Flaviano.

The following article originally appeared in the December 2001 issue of The Metro Monthly.

By Mark C. Peyko

Warren’s Courthouse Square – like Lancaster, Pa. and Shelbyville, Tenn. – has its roots in European town planning.

Dr. Marshall McLennan, retired director of the historic preservation program at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich., said the original American courthouse square plan reflected the “influence of the Scots-Irish on settlement in the Pennsylvania region.”

The plan, which typically features a courthouse building as a focal point of a downtown, ultimately had its roots in Ulster, Northern Ireland.

McLennan said the British put government buildings in the center of town to assert their power and dominance. These buildings were centrally located to allow “a field of fire in all directions.”

Although the European model had political implications, the American plan simply sought to create a pleasant parklike setting in the center of town.

Bobbie Brown, director of the Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County, agreed.

“In the midst of all these tall buildings and concrete, there’s this lovely green space. It’s a nice place for people to come together.”

McLennan said Lancaster, dating from the 1700s, is the earliest known existing courthouse square plan in America. Besides Warren, other courthouse square plans in the region include Lisbon, Ohio and Butler, Pa.

© 2009, The Metro Monthly. All rights reserved.


Warren’s Courthouse Square dates to 1801

This image from the 1940s depicts the Robins Theater in downtown Warren

This image from the 1940s depicts the Robins Theater in downtown Warren

This article originally appeared in the December 2001 issue of The Metro Monthly.

By Marie Shellock

Downtown Warren has both hisorical and contemporary qualities that have drawn in visitors for more than two centuries.

The downtown’s beauty – which can be traced back to the original layout designed by early settler Ephriam Quinby – charms visitors and workers as they go about their business. Some lovers of downtown find its so beguiling that they decide to make their homes of the upper floors of some of the buildings.

The centerpiece of downtown is the Trumbull County Courthouse and the oasis of greenery on the structure’s south side – Courthouse Square, the site of several festivals. Built in the late 1800s, the courthouse was restored  in 1999.

Downtown Warren gives the visitor a sense of the history that traces back to the earliest years of the young United States. Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwestern Territory, selected Warren as the county seat of all of the Western Reserve. That meant that Warren was the center of the territory for all political, judicial and business activity. A comparison of the populations of several cities in 1810 demonstrates the importance of Warren: Cleveland had 547 residents, and Youngstown had 773. Meanwhile, Warren was the largest township in the Western Reserve with a population of 875.

The four-acre site of public square, which provides the focal point of downtown to this day, was part of the original plat plan designed by Quinby in 1801, said Wendell Lauth, past president of the Trumbull County Historical Society. Its sidewalks – a grid that crisscrosses the park – came from the Austin Stone Quarry, which is behind the first Wal-Mart store in Warren, he said. The grid was in place at the time of the second courthouse, which was destroyed by fire. The first courthouse also was destroyed by fire. The current courthouse, the third structure, was restored at a cost of $12 million before Warren’s bicentennial celebration in 1999.

 Although it is a county structure, it is sited on ground – Courthouse Square – that belongs to the city.

Warren Timeline

 1798 – Ephriam Quinby and Richard Storer arrive from Washington County, Pa., to examine land that is part of a 120-mile area known as the Connecticut Western Reserve.

 1800 – Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory, names Warren the capital of the Western Reserve.

 1801 – The first schoolhouse and post office are established.

 1812 – The first newspaper of the Western Reserve is published. It is called The Trump of Fame and publishes until 1816, when it becomes the Western Reserve Chronicle.

 1815 – The first Trumbull County Courthouse is constructed.

 1861 – William Dowd Packard is born.

 1869 – Dana School of Music is established by William H. Dana.

 1876 – The Warren Tribune is established as a weekly newspaper. It becomes a daily newspaper in 1891.

 1884 – Earl Derr Biggers, author of novels featuring the Chinese detective Charlie Chan, is born.

 1899 – The first Packard automobile is manufactured in the shops of the New York & Ohio Co., which is owned by brothers James Ward and William Dowd Packard and the Packard Electric Co.

 1912 – Jonathan Warner II and others organize the Trumbull Steel Co. with an initial capital investment of $20 million. In 1930, the Republic Steel Co. acquires it.

 1918 – The Hippodrome Theatre opens.

 1924 – The Warren Tribune acquires the Warren Daily Chronicle, creating The Warren Tribune Chronicle.

 1939 – Copperweld Steel Co. of Glassport, Pa., announces plans for a $2 million plant.

 1946 – El Rio, a landmark Italian restaurant, opens on The Strip.

 1953 – Richard’s a longtime women’s shoe store in downtown Warren, is established. The Warren Plaza opens.

 1999 – Warren celebrates its bicentennial.

 – Compiled by Marie Shellock. 

© 2009, The Metro Monthly. All rights reserved.