History Alive

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:14

    I love buildings. As a child of architects, I have been looking at buildings of all sorts for as long as I can remember. So when I tried to choose my favorite historic building in Orange County, I thought it would be easy. It wasn't. And I realized that my favorite is actually a collection of buildings. These days, I spend a lot of time admiring historic buildings in my adopted hometown of Warwick, New York, located in the southern part of Orange County. Warwick is full of wonderful buildings, and they are an important part of the village's unique charm. Neither neglected nor forgotten, they are maintained and appreciated for their enduring beauty and historical integrity. I enjoy walking and driving down Main Street (which becomes Oakland Avenue) in the village of Warwick, looking at buildings in a variety of architec¬tural styles. I never tire of examining their design and materials, and discover¬ing new details of wood trim and decorative brickwork with every viewing. Again and again, I gaze at the crisp angles of old, brick bank buildings; the intri¬cately detailed porches of grand homes; the novel lettering announcing the name of the residential "Dulce Domum;" the pale, dimpled stone of the 18th century Baird's Tavern; and greet a carved stone face, curiously placed in a set¬back between two buildings. I am inspired by the simple beauty of the Old Baptist Church; the curved entrance lettering of an old firehouse; the unique styling and details of the old Gilvan's department store; and the graceful proportions and slate roof of the brick Kennedy Building, originally Warwick's first hospital. These buildings are a part of the everyday lives of Warwick's residents. As I do errands in town, I enter many of them — shops, offices, banks, restaurants — and delight in the details: the grand stairways with intricately carved wooden banis¬ters, the wainscoting and high ceilings, the wavy, bubbled glass panels over tall windows. It's like walking back in time for a while. A critical aspect of preserving these buildings is planning for their careful and creative adaptive re-use. As society changes, a railroad depot might become an office; a store becomes a gallery, a fire station becomes a restaurant; a grand old home becomes a bank or bed & breakfast; and the clocktower bell rings again as a church houses shops and businesses. A lot of history has passed by the doors of these buildings. Standing beside those who work, shop, and live in them are the spirits of generations past. We are the current caretakers of this important part of our community, and must protect it for the use and pleasure of future generations. These architectural beauties stand, silent in their elegance, as our community remembers its past and considers its future.