Documentation of Historic Structures on 12th Street, Covington
The Covington 12th Street project documents historic buildings that were demolished, or in a few cases moved, in the redevelopment of the 12th Street corridor. The project involved the demolition of more than 40 buildings on the south side of 12th Street, between Interstate 75 and Scott Street. Many of the buildings were contributing properties in two districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP): East Lewisburg and Hellentown. As part of an effort to mitigate the loss of these historic properties, the Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office (KHC), in cooperation with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, documented 33 of the buildings with photographs and floor plans prior to their demolition.
The loss of these buildings was a tough one for historic preservation. It was a landscape of high quality, high integrity, and of major historic significance. This report is an attempt to preserve some memory of what was lost. It is an incomplete picture: depending on condition, significance, access, scheduling, and safety issues, some of the structures were analyzed in greater depth than others. In fact there were several we would like to have examined in greater depth.
This project was made possible with the assistance of many people at the Kentucky Heritage Council, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, and the University of Kentucky, including Amanda Abner, Sarah Briland, Janie-Rice Brother, Diane Comer, Danielle Jamieson, Rachel Kennedy, Phil Logsdon, Bill Macintire, David L. Morgan, Danae Peckler, Craig Potts, Mike Spencer, Yvonne Sherrick, Roger Stapleton, Rebecca Horn Turner, David Waldner, and Dan White.
The construction of 12th Street began in the early 1840s when city officials began annexing farmland south and east of the city for future development. Covington’s population grew quickly in the following decades as an influx of predominantly German, Irish, and Welsh immigrants found work in the city’s growing industrial sector and trade professions, taking up residence in its newly-developed suburbs.
Mid-19th century transportation improvements such as the completion of the Lexington & Covington Railroad (later known as Kentucky Central) in 1853, the opening of Roebling’s Cincinnati-Covington suspension bridge in 1867, and the advent of horse-drawn railway service to and from Cincinnati furthered the city’s development. The railroad particularly affected the 12th Street corridor where the Kentucky Central line came into the city along Washington Street, establishing the axis by which 12th Street is divided into East and West.
The architecture of 12th Street reflects its history as an area comprised largely of single and multi-family dwellings and light commercial use for more than a century. Specialty stores, including barbers, bakers, and grocers, were commonly found on street corners and clustered around communal structures and busy intersections. A few industrial operations, such as a brewery, lumber yard, meat packing facility, and a coat factory, existed along 12th Street and supplied jobs to area residents in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Small backyard commercial structures such as shops were common features. Two Catholic churches, St. Joseph’s (c.1859) and St. Mary’s Cathedral (c.1875), provided spiritual and educational services to the local populace. In 1872, a public institution, Covington High School, was erected on the north corner of Russell and 12th Streets.
Much of the street’s built environment originated in the mid- to late 19th century, but early 20th century infill was fairly common. Despite the heavy concentration of European immigrants in this area, the buildings along 12th Street employed predominantly American, vernacular design traditions that collectively created a dense, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented, urban environment typical of American cities in that time period. The architecture of 12th Street evolved throughout the 1900s, as property owners made minor repairs, replaced materials, demolished some buildings (outbuildings in particular), and renovated and added on to the existing ones. A few prime corners were cleared for convenience marts and fast food.
In the 1970s, Covington saw a dramatic population loss that left many of its buildings vacant and neglected. A renewed interest in urban living and economic development, beginning in the 1980s and continuing into the 21st century, has once again brought a wide variety of people into the city. Exhibiting a diverse ethnic heritage, middle and working class cultures, vernacular architecture, and a walkable urban environment, dating back to the mid-19th century, Covington’s 12th Street corridor has contributed to the city’s larger identity, while remaining undeniably distinct – a legacy that continues to enrich its redevelopment today.
Read the full report [PDF - 7.6MB]