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.” 

And speaking of downtown, our local news outlet FauquierNow.com recently shared this image, captured by Denise Schefer as she traveled over Warrenton in a Piper aircraft…

(c) Denise Schefer. All rights reserved.

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.

IMG_2884A 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.

IMG_2894While 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.

IMG_2581I 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.

IMG_1697Working 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.

IMG_1741 (2)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.

IMG_2839Speed 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.



13 Replies to “Warrenton”

  1. Always love your blog……my friend is one of the ministers at Warrenton Presbyterian church (I think thats the name).

  2. Thanks so much for the sweet writing of this wonderful old town! I enjoyed starting my morning off with my cup of coffee and your interpretation of OTW. It was a great way to start the day!

  3. Thanks, Sylvia. I am glad you enjoyed it. I am actually in the process of preparing more images for upload to the Flickr set. They are images I captured in late 2011 and earlier in 2012. I take a lot of pictures, so I figured I might as well share them. 🙂

  4. Not wildey known, at one point the post office planned to relocate to the bypass. A longtime citizen, and mayors wife approached the post office asking why they planned to relocate and advocating for them to stay-as leaving would distroy downtown.

    The post office cited lack of space for vehicles and storage. Lucky for them the citizen inquiring owned the property behind the post office and donated to them if they promised to stay downtown and keep it thriving and growing. I think without that effort and selfless act out downtown would be very different.

    I uncovered these facts during the purchase of my home. You can find them in land records. Our silent heros have given us one amazing town! Happy to be a resident and love waking up here everyday!

  5. OTW Mom, I did not know that. What a cool bit of history to have shared.

    Jason, we moved from Central MD. Not far geographically, but world’s apart in so many ways.

  6. Im from Warrenton and love the blog I haven’t been home in so many years and know that it has changed a lot Yet your post about it brought back so many memories all good and hope to visit sometime in the future Warrentonian now ans always

    Consuelo Colbert
    granddaughter of Charles Madison who owned the barbershop on Main Street
    now living in Alexandria VA

  7. What lovely photos, and such a nice article. Now would be a good time of year to stroll down off Main Street onto First, less than half a block, and enjoy the “pocket garden” on the side of 17 First Street. It’s directly across from the drive-through window behind BB&T. During the 15 years that I had my Warrenton Graphics design studio there, I planted rose bushes, some of which the current tenants are doing a great job of continuing to nurture. A tenant before me had been known for her roses, too, and when I moved in, several folks stopped to express their hope that I would keep her tradition going, since they’d always enjoyed passing by her little garden on the way from the parking lot up to the “main drag.” Such a nice little touch of continuity is typical of life in Old Town.

  8. Just to let you know that a city planner from California reads and enjoys your blog. This is what planning is about, or should be about.

    I’m beginning to understand what America is all about.

  9. Ted, that’s so exciting! We moved from suburbia between Baltimore and Washington DC to the cutest little town ever. If city planners like yourself could replicate the feel of this place, America would be an even happier place. I’m glad you found me.

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