Overview History of the West End
In the early 1800s, J. Craig owned much of what today is Covington’s west end. He sold these holdings to James Riddle in 1820. Riddle’s plans for the property included the creation of a new town called Hibernia. A plat for Hibernia was developed that included four streets running east to west: Front, 2nd, 3rd and 4th; and three streets running north to south: Main, Walnut and Vine. Riddle’s dream for Hibernia never grew beyond the planning stages. No streets were built and no lots were sold. In 1825, Riddle sold the property to the Bank of the United States for the sum of $26,000.
Development in the west end began in the year 1825, when the Bank of the United States commissioned a plat for its 580-acre property. The new development contained four streets running from east to west: Front, 2nd, 3rd and 4th; and three streets running north to south: Riddle, Ferry and Philadelphia. It is believed that the name Philadelphia was given to the street because the Bank of the United States had its headquarters in that city.
The west end south of 11th Street began to develop in 1835, when the Western Baptist Theological Institute purchased 350-acres to use as a seminary. A seminary building and several other structures were built on the site. In order to raise funds, the Board of Trustees sold 23 acres of the original site between 1839 and 1841. By 1843, over 150 private residences had been built on this property. A dispute over the issue of slavery resulted in the seminary’s closing in 1855. Much of the Western Baptist Theological Institute’s property was subdivided at this time and sold for residential and business use. In addition, Linden Grove Cemetery was established on this property in 1843.
The west end attracted many of the new German immigrants arriving in Covington in the mid-1800s. These Germans established several churches and schools in the community, including: Immanuel German Methodist Church (1847), St. Paul German Evangelical Church (1847), Grace Evangelical Reformed Church (1862) and St. Aloysius German Catholic Church and School (1865). Other German related institutions and business in the neighborhood included the Western German Savings Bank (1908) and the Heidelburg Brewery Company (1834).
Irish Catholics also found in home in the west end, especially in the areas north of 5th Street. In 1870, St. Patrick Parish was established in the neighborhood to care for these immigrants. The Reverend James Smith, a native of Ireland, filed the post as pastor of the congregation from 1870 until his death in 1908. Other churches in the neighborhood included Main Street Methodist Church (1858) and Southside Baptist Church (1907).
The Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad constructed a rail line through the neighborhood in the 1880s. This line acted as a boundary to delineate the west end from the downtown. Initially, the tracks were on the street level. This caused innumerable problems for pedestrian and wagon travel. With the advent of the automobile, these railroad crossings became very dangerous. In the 1920s, the C&O tracks were elevated, thus allowing vehicular travel to pass underneath.
Goebel Park, named after assassinated Kentucky Governor and Covington resident William Goebel, provided many recreational activities for the people of the west end. The park was established in 1909 and has been in constant use ever since. The park included a wading pool, shelter house, walking trails and a playground.
Several public schools served the community. In 1846, the Second District School was established in the neighborhood on Greer Street. Second District was renamed John G. Carlisle School when a new structure was completed in 1937. Third District Elementary School began operation on in 1850. The school was located at the corner of 5th and Philadelphia Streets. In addition, the original Covington High School was located in the West End. The building was located at the corner of 12th and Russell Streets.
Covington High School remained in this location until the new Holmes High School was constructed on Madison Avenue in 1919.
The west end contained both residential and commercial, property. Main Street became the primary commercial thoroughfare. Most of the residential property was built for the working and middle classes. A more prosperous section of the neighborhood was located along Russell Street. This street was lined with many Victorian era brick homes for the well-to-do residents of Covington.
The first major blow to the west end was the 1937 Flood. High water inundated much of the neighborhood near the Ohio River. Many of the residents of this area sold their property and moved to higher ground. During the World War II years, the west end became home to a sizeable Appalachian population. These ‘mountain people’ came to the Covington area to find work.
During the post-World War II era, Covington residents accelerated their departure from the city to the suburbs. Among the hardest hit neighborhoods was the west end. The population of the area fell dramatically. This loss in population resulted in the closing of many west end landmarks. In 1950, Immanuel Methodist Church moved to the suburban community of Lakeside Park. The congregation of St. Paul United Church of Christ also relocated to the suburbs in 1969. St. Patrick Parish closed its doors in 1967 and fire destroyed St. Aloysius Church in 1985. A declining enrollment in the Covington Public Schools resulted in closing of Third District School in 1981. In 1995, Grace United Methodist Church closed following 133 years of service to the community.
The City of Covington focused on the revitalization of the neighborhood in the 1970s. In 1977, the Commonwealth of Kentucky awarded the city a grant for $2.5 million. The result of this grant was the creation of Main Strasse Village, a German themed shopping and entertainment area centered at the corner of Main and 6th Streets. Main Strasse included a German Gothic carillon with 43 bells. The carillon was named after Kentucky Governor Julian Carroll. The neighborhood also featured a fountain with a design based on the Grimm’s Brothers “Goose Girl” fairy tale.
In more recent years, the neighborhood benefited from the construction of several businesses on West 3rd Street, including four hotels and a Lexus automobile dealership. Today, the neighborhood is primarily divided between commercial (Fourth Street to the Ohio River) and residential (Fifth Street to the southern boundary).