By Patrick Farris
Warren County has been working recently to refurbish the small brick structure owned by the county on the courthouse grounds at the intersection of Main Street and Royal Avenue in Front Royal.
Deborah Corey, our assistant archivist in the Laura Virginia Hale Archives of the Warren Heritage Society, pulled Rebecca Good's research on the old Treasurer's Office for me share with staff and elected officials at the Warren County Government Center. I present the results here for the reader, as we discovered some interesting and little-known facts related to its construction and use:
Constructed in 1876 and occupied on January 1, 1877, the Warren County Treasurer's Office was built on the Warren County Courthouse property, joining the courthouse, Warren County Jail, and Warren County Clerk's Office on those grounds. Those original buildings had all been constructed between 1836 and 1840. The jail building was moved off the grounds and converted to private use as part of what became the home of Parker Hitt on Browntown Road in 1906, where it remains standing today. The clerk's office was razed in 1907, and the old courthouse was torn down in 1935 and replaced with the current courthouse. These changes have made the old Treasurer's Office building the oldest public building which remains standing on the Warren County Courthouse grounds.
The Treasurer's Office was constructed by David D. Hoshour. According to the Warren County Board of Supervisors' contract with Hoshour, made in August 1876, the building was to be "a one-story brick building, 16 feet by 25 feet, two rooms, tin roof, etc., on the Northeast corner of the Courthouse lot, for a County Treasurer's Office and one room to rent."
The building ended up being 15 feet by 30 feet and constructed of a double thickness of brick. The cost of the building was $500, and through rental rates of $10 per month to the treasurer and $20 per month for rent from the second room, the Board of Supervisors planned on recouping the construction costs within a year and a half. The Warren Sentinel, reporting on Aug. 11, 1876 on the contract to construct a building for the treasurer, wrote that all "the evidences of the financial condition of our county have been in an insecure depository ever since we have had a county Treasurer's Office, and we commend the Supervisors for now providing for their safe keeping," indicating that the Treasurer's Office was either located within one of the other older buildings on the courthouse grounds or possibly on private property, such as in the homes of various treasurers over the years.
The Board of Supervisors in that period consisted of five seats, occupied in 1876 by James W. Kendrick, chairman, of the Fork District, William M. Buck of the Front Royal District, William S. Conrad of the Cedarville District, and James W. Boyd of the South River District. The county treasurer at the time the Treasurer's Office was constructed was William Scroggins, and he occupied the office from 1877 to 1888. Subsequent treasurers using the office building were M.C. Richardson from 1888 to 1916, A.L. Warthen from 1916 to 1928, and S. Byrne Downing from 1928 until 1936. Downing moved the Warren County Treasurer's Office into the new courthouse,which was completed in 1936, and he continued to serve as treasurer until 1960.
Before 1960, the second room in the building was rented out to various individuals, mostly lawyers. In 1949, the second room became the home of the Front Royal Community Library after being last used by the law offices of H.F. Minter.
The Library Committee in 1949 that arranged for the library to occupy this space was composed of the following women: Mattie Brown, Sara Johnson, Elizabeth Millar and R. M. Powers. In addition to these two main rooms which comprised the original construction, a third room was added as part of a rear addition to the Treasurer's Office building in 1920. This room added a 12 foot by 15 foot space. As of 1971, the building was the home of the American Red Cross offices in Front Royal.
Interested in local history? Come visit the Warren Heritage Society in Front Royal. Refer to warrenheritagesociety.org for contact information, hours and location. Patrick Farris is executive director of the Warren Heritage Society.