Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky/ Covington Protestant Children’s Home
Plans to establish a Protestant orphanage in Covington began in 1880. At this time, the Catholic Church was sponsoring three orphanages in the Northern Kentucky area. A number of wealthy businessmen saw the need for an orphanage sponsored by their various Protestant denominations. Amos Shinkle, a wealthy Covington coal dealer, came forward with a proposal. He agreed to buy a suitable lot and to construct a building with his own funds if the Protestants of the area would support the institution. The proposal was accepted.
A meeting was held in March 1881 to establish a permanent board of trustees and to elect officers. Amos Shinkle was elected president of the new group. Also at this meeting, the board agreed to accept the architectural plans of Samuel Hannaford of Cincinnati for the new building.
The first Covington Protestant Children’s Home was constructed at the southwest corner of 14th and Madison Avenue. The building was 3 ½ stories in height and contained dormitory space, a large playroom and a chapel. The building could comfortably house fifty orphans. Amos Shinkle financed the purchase of the lot and the construction of the building. The total cost of the project was $53,000. In 1887, an endowment was established to continually finance the operation of the home. Amos Shinkle again came to the forefront and offered to match all other donations.
For many years, the Covington Protestant Children’s Home operated as a traditional orphanage. Children were accepted from infancy until the age of 16 in these early days.
By 1914, the neighborhood surrounding the home had deteriorated. The C & O Railroad shops and roundhouse were very nearby and other industries had also relocated to the area. At certain times during the year, smoke and soot became such a nuisance that the children could not go outdoors and play. In that year, the board of trustees purchased five acres of land and a thirteen-room home near the intersection of Southern and Latonia Avenues. The building on the site was used for a number of years as a summer home by the residents.
Although the new Latonia property offered some relief from the dirty and noisy downtown location, it was never seen as a permanent solution. In 1924, the board officially purchased a 25-acre parcel of land from Helen Bryant. This property was located adjacent to Devou Park. During the following year, a large fundraising drive was conducted by the board. The goal for the campaign was set at $250,000. The chairman of the drive was attorney Shelly D. Rouse. He was assisted by the vice chairman, John C. Hermann. Within a very short period of time, not only was the goal met, but surpassed.
The board chose the firm of Samuel Hannaford and Son to design the new structure. The firm developed a Colonial Revival Style structure with a large front portico. The new structure was dedicated in December 1926 with appropriate ceremonies. The total cost of construction reached $285,000.
The children’s home functioned as a traditional orphanage throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Changes, however, began to occur in the 1960s. In the early 1960s, the nursery department was closed. The age of residents was limited to six years old and older. In 1969, the first African American resident was admitted.
The number of children living in the home declined in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1979, the institution changed its mission to serving “mildly emotionally disturbed children and pre-delinquents.” The home was limited to children between the ages of 12 and 16. Most of the residents were referred to the home by the juvenile court system or social service agencies. In 1982, 15 children resided at the home.
More changes occurred in the 1990s. The most important was the change of name for the institution. Originally sponsored by the Protestant congregations of Covington, the home had since become less identified with any particular denomination. In 1990, the board officially voted to change the name to the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky.
Today, the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky continues to serve the needs of the area’s neglected youth. Despite a change in location and name, the legacy of Amos Shinkle continues to live on today in the work of the home.
Daily Commonwealth, March 15, 1881, p. 1 and December 20, 1882, p. 4; Kentucky Post, April 28, 1914, p. 7, October 23, 1924, p. 1, May 26, 1925, December 12, 1926, p. 1 and September 22, 1979; Kentucky Post and Times-Star, May 8, 1925; Reis, Jim, Pieces of the Past Vol. 2 (Covington: Kentucky Post) 1991. p. 128-130; Kenton County Public Library Vertical Files;