Plaque Honors the Life and Accomplishments of Elizabeth C.T. Warren, 19th Century Business Woman, General Contractor
Silver City -- A plaque will be unveiled Wednesday by Mayor Ken Ladner at the Mrs. O.S. Warren house, the only home to survive the many floods to scour what was then Silver City's Main Street, now known as the Big Ditch. Not only will the steel-cast marker commemorate this historic 1886 Victorian structure, but will also honor the life and accomplishments of Elizabeth C.T. Warren, a highly successful Silver City entrepreneur who took over her husband's insurance business after he died in 1885.
She had been working with her husband, so knew most everything about insurance, and represented dozens of companies. Included on the plaque is a photo taken from Mrs. Warren's business stationery to which she added a rooftop sign advertising her insurance company. The elegant front door at the corner of the house marked the entrance to her office.
At the time, "respectable" women had few choices to earn money. But with three children to raise alone, she did what needed to be done, and became a highly successful business woman. In 1907, when the town required concrete sidewalks, Mrs. Warren started a concrete business, and was responsible for the laying of many Silver City pavements. She demanded a high standard of work, evident in the continued presence of her sidewalks, which have lasted longer than those built by the WPA 30 years later. She continued to affect the town by becoming a general contractor, who built and remodeled many homes.
She also is the first-known woman to become a notary public in Southwest New Mexico, and spent much time researching and confirming mining claims. Initially, she designed the front room of her home to be her office, but by 1900 she was doing so much business, she built another office a block away on the corner of Market and Bullard. Her house is the only remaining residence on Silver City's original Main Street, in part because during the most serious floods, she hired men to sandbag the edge of the ditch, and later was able to pour concrete to shore up the banks.
The Warren plaque was the idea of the town’s local history researchers, who started the Bullard Street Project a few years ago for the purpose of documenting its historic buildings. Donations were made to create the plaque, the major donor being Mrs. Warren's 98-year-old great granddaughter, who resides in California.
“It was a collaborative effort,” Mayor Ladner said. “Joe Bryce, formerly of the Silver City Museum, gave of his graphic talents. Denise Friedricks, from the Western Institute of Lifelong Learning, welded the stand. Other people around town, such as Charmeine Wait of MainStreet, contributed ideas and support.”
"Mrs. Warren is an important representative of the growth of Silver City and of all the strong women who helped build the Southwest," said researcher Tom Hester. "We're very happy to be able to honor such an important historic figure who accomplished so much. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mrs. Warren herself made an appearance, despite COVID restrictions—and being dead for 75 years."
The brick O.S. Warren House, built in 1886, was the only structure along this section of Silver City's original Main Street to survive the 1895 flood. A plaque commemorating the home and the life and accomplishments of Mrs. O.S. (Elizabeth) Warren will be unveiled at 1:15 Wednesday afternoon. The Silver City Museum, which helped fund the project, offers exhibits that touch on both Mrs. Warren and the flood.