Have you ever driven past an empty lot and wondered what was there before the asphalt and crabgrass? A surface lot, or even a new building in the heart of Covington, was likely erected upon the spot where another building once stood. Covington’s built environment has many intact and preserved buildings dating back as far as the early 1800s, but you might find a photo of a building in Faces and Places that you don’t recognize that was lost to development, fire, or perceived obsolescence. Here are a few examples of buildings of historic and stylistic distinction that once stood in Covington, but are now gone.
Holmes’ Castle is likely the most well-known example of lost architecture in Covington. This palatial home was the second location of Covington Public High School. The high school was originally located on Russell Street, near 12th Street, and was also torn down. Holmes’ Castle was built by Daniel Henry Holmes, a wealthy retailer. It was designed in the Gothic Revival style, which can be identified by its pointed arch windows and church-like details. With its sprawling grounds and lavishly appointed interior, Holmesdale was not D. H. Holmes’ only residence, and in 1915 (seventeen years after his death), his surviving family sold the property to the Covington School Board. The high school was moved into the residence until 1936, when it was razed and a new building constructed in its place. The décor and furnishings that remained were auctioned, and what didn’t sell was unceremoniously burned in the football field.
The Amos Shinkle Mansion is one particularly polarizing example of Gothic Revival architecture that once stood at 165 E. 2nd Street—people seem to either find it grand and exciting, or stuffy and overwrought. This castellated form of Gothic Revival was a high example of that style, and it seems to have everything but the flying buttresses. Shinkle is known historically for his involvement with the Roebling Bridge, Covington Children’s Home, First National Bank, and for helping fund the construction of many Methodist churches in the area. Shinkle willed the house on East 2nd Street to the Salvation Army, and the original Booth Memorial Hospital operated out if its quarters. It was deemed inappropriate for that use by the 1920s and was razed to make way for a new hospital building, which still stands today as Governor’s Point Condominiums.
Covington’s Post Office and Federal Building was located at the lot bounded by Scott Boulevard, Court Street, 3rd Street, and Park Place, where the Kenton County Building stands today. The cornerstone was set on 4 July 1876, and was designed by William Appleton Potter, who was known for his design of municipal buildings and many structures at Princeton University. He designed the Post Office and Federal Building while at his post as Supervising Architect of the United States Treasury. It was created in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, which can be identified by heavy stone masonry, lots of arches, and decorative belt course banding between floors. The Post Office was moved to its current location at Scott and 7th Street in the 1940s, and was sold to the county in that same decade. It was used as a county vocational school, and later storage, until it was demolished in 1968.
The Post Office gained a stylistically dynamic neighbor by the turn of the 20th century. Covington’s first City Hall was built in 1843, on the north side of 3rd street between Court and Greenup (today the site of the suspension bridge onramps). After more than five decades and extensive renovations, the building was razed in July of 1899 to make way for the second iteration of City Hall. During construction of the new building, the city officers made the nearby Hermes Building (now Molly Malone’s) their temporary home. The cornerstone was placed in October of 1899. The brick-faced Chateauesque building was designed by the firm of Dittoe and Wisenall, and welcomed traffic into the Covington coming off the Roebling until 1970.
There are also many residential homes that have been lost to the years. The Motch home stood at 1538 Madison Avenue, which is now the location of Scottish Rites temple. The Motch Family was known for their jewelry business, which still operates in Covington today. This Queen Anne style home was purchased by the family in 1886, and it featured a number of eclectic embellishments that were indicative of that style: fishscale shingle siding, stained glass windows, and a capped tower along the south side. It was demolished sometime before 1953.
Nimrod H. Sinclair was a Covington grocer, whose home was once located at the southeast corner of Robbins and Scott. Built in the Second Empire style, it featured a distinct central tower and mansard roof. It was razed sometime around the turn of the 20th century, and the Carnegie Performing Arts Center (originally built as the Covington Library) now stands in its place. Coincidentally, Nimrod’s granddaughter, Anne Sinclair Palmer, was born in the home in 1878, and later became assistant librarian on that same site. She died in 1925, and the library closed for a day to honor her memory.
What buildings do you remember that are now absent from the cityscape? The library has a number of resources to help you discover what Covington, and other Northern Kentucky cities, have looked like throughout the years, such as Faces and Places and Sanborn Fire Insurance maps.
This blog was written by Kaira Simmons, Library Associate, Local History and Genealogy Department, Covington.