“A Safe Harbor for Freedom of Expression”
Michael Newhard, Mayor of Warwick, says that a hot house of perfect conditions helped Warwick develop its upscale, yet open and creative climate. “The town is well known but far enough away from major highways, keeping it protected yet in the public eye. People see it as a safe harbor for freedom of expression.” Warwick’s tie to Manhattan, first as a choice location for summer homes, drew famous people like actors Gloria de Haver and Richard Kiley, and Hudson River painter, Jasper Cropsey. Its agricultural history fostered wide-open spaces and mansions, and its proximity to New York City allowed the flow of goods along what was once the King’s Road during colonial times. It’s always been an arts community-it has the right stuff for eccentrics and creative people to live here.
In the 1700s, Francis Baird started it all. A book dealer from Manhattan, he built a stone house with a connecting tavern. Baird had connections in New York City, so he supplied everyone with everything. He sold ironwork to farmers, saddles, leatherwork, plows, teacups, fabric to seamstresses, coats, hats, buttons and false teeth. Doctors got supplies, scalpels, and needles. He did banking, loaned money, and bought the ashes from everyone’s fireplaces to make laundry soap to sell. There was nothing he wasn’t involved in. He supplied fresh horses for carriages that traveled the King’s Road from Philadelphia to Newburgh. Baird was a monopoly-entrepreneur extraordinaire-the only local from the city who was a merchant. Main Street becomes a Winter Wonderland in Warwick.
A hundred years later, Warwick became a town and is listed as a Historic District on the National Register. There are three villages: Warwick, Greenwood Lake and Florida. They are all finally understanding their diversity. There are eight hamlets: Little York, Pine Island, Greenwood Forest Farms, Bellvale, Amity, Edenville, New Milford, and Sterling Forest. Twenty-five years ago, the stores on Main Street served the farm community. Young entrepreneurs in the 80s saw that Warwick was going through a real estate boom and grabbed the opportunity of an urbane market and the rebirth of tourism. The infrastructure was here for a healthy shopping area that absorbed change and re-emerged into special niche stores, far enough away from the malls to survive.