Overview History of West Covington
The West Covington neighborhood has been a part of the City of Covington since 1916. Prior to this time, West Covington was an independent city. The neighborhood is located along the Ohio River and is bordered by Ludlow to the west, Ridge Street to the east and Devou Park to the south.
The land that is now West Covington was owned by Israel Ludlow in the 1840s. In 1846, Ludlow decided to commission a plat for a small village on the property. This small area of residences and businesses became known as Economy. The area was attractive to newcomers because of its location on a hill away from the industry and noise of nearby Covington. In addition, the area was linked to Cincinnati by the 5th Street Ferry, which made it very convenient for commuters.
In 1858, the Commonwealth of Kentucky incorporated the little town under the name West Covington. That same year, the first public school in the area was established. It was housed in a small building that one newspaper of the era referred to as a “log cabin.” This original schoolhouse was replaced by a brick structure in 1877. This building not only housed the school, but also the city government and a public library.
In 1860, the Catholic residents of West Covington began constructing a church in the town. The building, located on Main Street (now Parkway) was dedicated in 1864 under the patronage of St. Ann. Irish immigrants and their descendants composed a majority of the membership. Soon after the establishment of the parish, the congregation opened a parochial school. By 1875, the school enrolled 150 pupils and was staffed by the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg, Indiana.
By 1875, the population of the city had surpassed 1,000. The community was diverse and included immigrants from England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, France and Italy. This growth resulted in an attempt by Covington to annex the town. The residents of West Covington, however, resisted the efforts of their larger neighbor.
In 1877, a second church was established in the community. The Union Church (now Epworth Methodist) was located on Main Street. The congregation was originally established as a general church for all Protestants. A few years later, however, it became affiliated with the Methodist Church.
The 1890s brought much progress to West Covington. In 1892, construction began on Highway Avenue through the city. The construction also included tracks for a street railway. Also in 1892, the German Protestants of the town established St. John German Evangelical Protestant Church. The new congregation built a frame church in the Gothic Style on the new Highway Avenue.
The issue of annexation to Covington became serious in 1916. Many prominent West Covington residents backed the measure. The advantages of annexation were many: Professional fire protection, access to the excellent Covington Public School system, lower taxes and increased property values. In November 1916, West Covington residents went to the polls to vote on annexation. The measure passed, and thus, the City of West Covington no longer existed.
At the time of annexation, the old West Covington Public School became known as Eleventh District. In 1919, the Covington Public School Board began plans to build a new schoolhouse in the neighborhood. This new eight-classroom structures was dedicated in 1923. An addition containing four classrooms, an auditorium and a library was completed in 1931.
Another benefit of annexation was the extension of fire protection to the neighborhood. In 1933, the city built a new firehouse at the corner of Altamont and Parkway Avenue. The building was completed in January 1934.
The years following the Second World War brought many changes to West Covington. New housing was being built in the suburbs south of Covington. With little undeveloped land, West Covington expansion came to a halt. By the mid 1960s, the population began to decline. Only a handful of new building projects took place during this era. In 1957, St. Ann Parish dedicated a new school building. Two years later, the Epworth Methodist congregation built a new sanctuary. Both structures were located on Highway Avenue.
The last major development in the neighborhood was the construction of the Hathaway Senior Citizens Apartments in 1972-1973. This large, multi-story apartment complex was constructed on the site of the old historic Hathaway Hall.
Declining population began to take a serious toll on the neighborhood in the 1970s. By 1976, the Eleventh District School had an enrollment of only 200 students. This declining enrollment, coupled with the federal government’s order to integrate the Covington school system, resulted in the closing of Eleventh District School in 1979. The closing of Eleventh District School left St. Ann School as the only educational institution in the neighborhood. St. Ann, however, was also struggling with low enrollment. St. Ann School closed at the end of the 1980-1981 school year.
Despite these recent difficulties, West Covington has retained a distinct community identity. Wedged between Covington proper and Ludlow, the neighborhood takes pride in its small town feel and strong sense of community.