Marker #1751, "Warwick / Oregon"

Historical marker #1751, “Warwick / Oregon,” chronicles the early history of the Warwick (Woodford County) and Oregon (Mercer County) communities that sit across from each other in a bend of the Kentucky River approximately two and a half miles east of present-day Salvisa.

Anglo-American activity in the area can be traced to 1774, when a party led by explorer James Harrod came ashore after canoeing up the Kentucky River from the Ohio. As a result, this section of the riverbank was sometimes called Harrod’s Landing by the early residents of Fort Harrod located farther to the south, which is considered the first permanent Anglo-American settlement in Kentucky. By 1787, the Warwick community had been established on the east bank of the Kentucky River. The community of Oregon joined it on the opposite bank sometime thereafter. The origin of their names remains unknown.

Prior to the Civil War, both port towns thrived thanks to flatboat and steamboat commerce that connected central Kentucky to cities throughout the Mississippi River Valley and as far south as New Orleans. With the expansion of railroad networks in the second half of the nineteenth century, both hamlets dwindled in size despite the completion of Lock & Dam #6 approximately a mile downstream in 1891. By 1912, the post office that served the area had closed, with Warwick and Oregon reverting to primarily rural, agrarian communities.

Warwick’s most notable resident was the famous architectural historian Clay Lancaster (1917-2000). An early advocate of historic preservation, he became a prominent promoter of house museums and historic districts and wrote influential books still revered among public historians today.

Born in Lexington, Lancaster began his career on the East Coast following graduation from the University of Kentucky. In New York City, he researched the architectural history of Brooklyn, with a focus on the future preservation work that would have to be done to keep the historic buildings not only standing but also protected from industrialization. In 1971, he moved to Nantucket, where he used his earlier work to inform his restoration work on his own historic home and to assist his neighbors with similar undertakings.

At a time when many public historians and museum curators emphasized the preservation of historical artifacts, Lancaster was a champion of saving entire historic homes as well, believing them to be worthy of preservation in their own right. His best-known written works includes Architectural Follies in America (1960), Antebellum Houses of the Bluegrass (1961), The Japanese Influence in America (1963), Antebellum Architecture of Kentucky (1991), The Breadth and Depth of East and West (1995), and Pleasant Hill: Shaker Canaan in Kentucky (2000).

In 1978, Lancaster returned to Kentucky in search of "blissful solitude.” He purchased the Moses Jones House, built between 1809 and 1811, in Warwick and secured a listing for it on the National Register of Historic Places. Jones (1773-1842) had been an early Anglo-American settler of Kentucky, working as a surveyor, farmer, and brandy distiller. The brick home’s Federal style and hall-and-parlor design are reminiscent of country residences in early-republic Virginia, showing a sophistication that was uncommon in frontier Kentucky at the time. Jones Family descendants remained in possession of the home until 1973.

Long fascinated by the construction of architectural “follies,” Lancaster hired Williamsburg-trained craftsman and contractor Calvin Shewmaker to assist him with his goal of building several follies of his own. These included a two-and-a-half-story octagonal tower, a tea pavilion built in an eighteenth-century style, and a modern-looking picture gallery to house his art collection and accommodate gatherings.

Clay Lancaster established the non-profit Warwick Foundation in his final years of life. In addition to maintaining the buildings housed at his compound in Warwick, this organization continues Lancaster’s lifelong commitment to public education, historic preservation, and community building. Tours of the site are available by appointment.

The marker reads:


On Kentucky River, 21/2 miles from here, James Harrod and party landed in 1774, before founding Harrodsburg. Called "Harrod's Landing," this location was major rendezvous for militia, 1780. It became site of Warwick, founded 1787. Trustees included early surveyor Samuel McAfee, future governor Christopher Greenup, and the noted Indian fighter Hugh McGary. Over.


Warwick flourished for some 50 years and was succeeded by Oregon. Both were early shipping ports. Flatboats, during Warwick era, and later steamboats, at Oregon, ran regularly between here and New Orleans. This point was at head of slackwater navigation on Kentucky River. The creek is still called Landing Run because of significance to James Harrod.