Is it really the Warren House?

I see in the Gazette that the Warren House is back in the news. I have to smile. The house had a sign on it, “The Captain Warren House” for as many years as I have been coming to the Vineyard. When my husband and I first visited, we stayed at the Daggett House, of which the Warren house was an annex. As I came to know Vineyard history and Vineyard people, I found out that John Chirgwin, a co-owner of the inn, was the one who named it, and since he is not that much older than I am, and since he has even said that he made it up, perhaps readers might like to know its story.

There really was a Frederick Warren. But he was not a captain and had little to do with the house other than provide the money to jazz it up for his wife, Caroline Osborn Warren. He was a chartered accountant and merchant from London. He and Caroline were married in Edgartown in 1855. The house was her father’s, Samuel Osborn. (His son Samuel Jr. built the Charlotte Inn). It was a simple house at the beginning. The Warren home at 336 Commonwealth avenue in Boston was much larger and much more imposing. But hard times came to the Osborns, as they did to a lot of Vineyard families when shipping declined in the last quarter of the 19th century. Caroline did not want to let go of her birthplace, so she, armed with her husband’s wealth, bought out her siblings and began to remodel. She may have had her brother’s cupola in mind when she added a tower, which made it the tallest building on Water street. This tower can be seen in old pictures and on an 1886 map of Edgartown. It has since been removed, but the other embellishments so dear to the late Victorians remain, even if they are a little sad and shabby now.

Caroline was a true benefactor of Edgartown, donating her side yard to the town for the construction of the library, along with seed money to help the project along. Her picture graces the library still. She was a lovely woman, with lustrous dark brown hair, and it is easy to see why Frederick Warren was an indulgent husband.