Sometimes referred to as “the Heart of Warrenton,” Old Town Warrenton (OTW) means different things to different people. The myriad independent merchants, restaurants, commercial enterprises, and churches, various government agencies and other public services centered on and around Main Street inspire many to think of OTW as “downtown.”
Denise was kind enough to let me publish that photo here. Thanks, Denise!
And for those of you who wonder where the heck I am in relation to Washington, DC, which we locals just call “DC,” here’s a Google map.
Others understandably think of OTW, with its blocks of well-preserved late 19th and early 20th century commercial and residential structures, as the Warrenton historic district. Oddly, despite the number of stately old homes, and more-modest residences of varying shapes, sizes, and ages interspersed among the public and private commercial establishments, fewer people think of OTW as a place where people live.
A relative newcomer to Warrenton, I consider myself lucky to call OTW home. It really is a delightful place to live. In fact, now that my husband and I are here, we wish we had moved here sooner and, for the near future anyway, cannot imagine living anywhere else.
What’s so great about living in OTW? First and foremost, it is a great place for a leisurely stroll. Warrenton’s Department of Planning & Community has done a fabulous job directing the physical development of the town. OTW is aesthetically appealing and steeped in quaintness and charm. There’s nothing like meandering through town on a fair-weather day, through the central business district and/or among the bucolic streets of the surrounding residential neighborhoods, observing the variety of building types, colors, and styles, taking in the colors and fragrances of flowering plants, listening as the clock in the old courthouse strikes the hour.
While I have heard rumblings about the stringency of the historic district guidelines, how else would a town protect against deterioration and destruction of the historic area and its structures. Establishing and maintaining exacting guidelines are the only way to insure that the look and feel of OTW is preserved. Prominent building such as the Old Courthouse (built in 1890) at the three-way intersection of Main and Waterloo Streets and Alexandria Pike, and its neighbor, the Old Jail (built in 1808), are more-visible, appreciated by many, and therefore less at-risk. It is the smaller, lesser-known buildings of historical significance together with the town’s more-popular landmarks that collectively give Warrenton its overall historic look and feel.
I find my jaunts through OTW relaxing. The wide assortment of historic residential and commercial buildings are pleasing to the eye. For the most part, the pace is slow and people are very friendly. Whether strangers passing on the street or familiar faces, it is not at all uncommon to stop for a chat or two. Especially when traveling with dogs, which I usually do. Being able to take in the many different storefront window displays that change with the seasons is a thrill for me, too. The Christmas displays are tops in my book.
The second best thing about living in OTW is the convenience. I work from an office in my home, so I have no driving commute. In fact, unless I need to go to a grocery store or one of the other larger retailers on the outskirts of town, I rarely feel a need to drive. Main Street is lined with a wide array of inviting shops and taste-tempting eateries. As Old Town’s popularity has grown, even the side streets have been filling up with businesses.
I have been told that OTW wasn’t always this way. Several years back, there weren’t as many businesses, and people didn’t have much reason to come into OTW during the week. Weekends were different, especially on Sundays with the several long-standing churches in town.
Perhaps it is a good thing that we didn’t move to Warrenton sooner. I absolutely love being able to walk to the Great Harvest Bread Company when I really need something sweet. Or when I am low on bread, milk, or eggs. As much as I enjoy their products, I think I enjoy Pablo and his crew even more. They are such genuinely nice people. Speaking of nice people, I have a regular circle of merchants I have befriended and like to visit, too. Like Sherrie at Sherrie’s Stuff, Kelly Ann and crew at Kelly Ann’s Quilts, Amy of Amy’s at Rhodes, and Janet at The Empty Nest.
Working from home has many advantages, but can sometimes feel a bit isolating. If I need a break, I just stroll around OTW, visiting friends when I can, if they are not too busy. When I need to squeeze in some errands in the middle of the day, being within walking distance of a full-service Post Office, the county and town offices, the library, and the DMV is a huge advantage.
Having several restaurants within walking distance is also extremely convenient. I rarely go out for a sit-down lunch, but sometimes, at the end of an especially trying work day, being able to just grab my purse and walk to any number of good restaurants is huge. I never have to fight traffic or worry about where to park.
Speaking of parking, the third awesome thing about living in OTW is being able to leave my car safely in the driveway but still participate in the many wonderful, and sometimes very crowded, special events. Since the Farmers’ Market is a weekly thing, I don’t believe parking is as much of an issue as it is during events like the holiday parades, Fathers’ Day car show, First Fridays, Spring Festival, etc.
As with anything else, life in town does have its drawbacks. I don’t have a clear view of the eastern or western sky from my house, so I do not often get to enjoy the sight of the sun rising or setting. It can sometime get noisy, too. Traffic noise is the worst. Not necessarily in terms of vehicle numbers, but rather engine noise, most notably the modified, rumbling motorcycles, diesel pick-up trucks, and loud service and/or delivery vehicles.
Speed is a problem, too. The majority of vehicles traveling through town are exceeding the 25 mph speed limit, especially after normal business hours. During the day, drivers seem to be more mindful of their speed and are more likely to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. The evening hours are when things get really bad. Vehicles traveling at excessive speed and ignoring pedestrians seem to be the norm rather than the exception. Emergency vehicles can be loud, too. Ironically, some emergency responders are the worst offenders as they routinely travel at alarming speeds when responding to calls.
Those negatives can be bothersome, and even potentially deadly, but they are clearly outweighed by the positives I discussed. Old Town is the Heart of Warrenton, and it is also my home.
If you like the images included with the article and want to see more, you can watch the slideshow embedded below…
… or visit my Old Town Warrenton collection on FLICKR.
Looking for something in Warrenton?
Try the Warrenton Lifestyle Magazine‘s Warrenton Business Directory.