History For Sale in Mainstrasse…

251 W 6th Street, Covington, currently listed for sale (MLS 439192)
251 W. 6th Street, Covington, currently listed for sale (MLS 439192)

There is a lovely 1870s Italianate Style home at 251 W. 6th Street, Covington, Kentucky currently looking for a new steward. This 2-bedroom, single family house is a mixture of modernity and history–much like Mainstrasse Village itself, the neighborhood wherein it sits. Mardi-Gras-2015Mainstrasse is roughly bounded on the east by the Chesapeake & Ohio (C & O) Railway tracks, on the north by 6th Street, on the west by  I-75 and Goebel Park, and on the south by Pike Street.  If you are even remotely familiar with northern Kentucky, you know that Mainstrasse is a gem: an intact, late 19th Century, urban residential neighborhood, entirely walkable, and complete with vibrant boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and bars. Kaleidoscope Stained Glass at 704 Main Street, in particular, is a one-of-a-kind establishment featuring beautiful old and new stained and art glass creations (hey, they might be able to restore your old stained glass windows and you can even take stained glass classes there!). Mainstrasse also hosts a number of festivals throughout the year such as Mardi gras, Maifest, Oktoberfest, and Goettafest. th

As expected, Mainstrasse is recognized by the City of Covington as a local historic district, referred to as an Historic Preservation Overlay (HPO) Zone. Historic design review guidelines are available on-line here, which are part of the city ordinance and function to protect buildings within the zone from specifi alterations and demolitions through the Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) process.

Mainstrasse Historic Overlay Zone
Mainstrasse Historic Preservation Overlay Zone

And, of course, Mainstrasse is also on the National Register of Historic Places (added in 1983, it’s official name is “West Side/Mainstrasse” [ID # 83003650] but let’s stay with “Mainstrasse” for simplicity’s sake), forming an historic district consisting of approximately 800 buildings and covering more than 90 acres.

West Site/Mainstrasse National Register boundaries as depicted on the NRHP Inventory-Nomination Form, 1983
West Side/Mainstrasse National Register boundaries as depicted on the NRHP Inventory-Nomination Form, 1983

Mainstrasse developed from the 1840s until 1900 and was, for over a century, home to families mainly of working class, German origin. Their cultural background provided the foundation for the character of the neighborhood. Around 700 of the buildings within the historic district are residential, in turn dominated by what is described as the “Covington townhouse”: a  2 or 3-bay, brick or frame residence, usually with some form of Italianate trim. The Italianate Style was popular from around 1850 to 1890. Italianate homes were typically 2-3 three stories in height, with flat or hip roofs, bay windows with inset wooden panels, corner boards and 2-over-2 double-hung windows. The windows often had curved or molded window caps. The vernacular, 2-bay “Covington townhouse”–like 251 W. 6th Street–was characterized by a parlor in front and the main entrance set back on one side. The entrance usually opened up straight to the staircase hall (and thus a building could be divided up, with the upper floors as separate units if desired). Sometimes, there is a formal entrance leading directly into the parlor, which was often the result of converting one front window into a door.

C & O train engine
C & O train engine

251 W. 6th sits at the western edge of Mainstrasse near the elevated C & O Railway tracks–which is actually very nice since you are steps away from the festivals throughout the year but not smack dab in the middle of them. The C & O, a Class I railroad (those with the highest annual gross revenue), was formed in 1869 and developed by the industrialist Collis Porter Huntington (Huntington, West Virginia is named after this guy). By 1873, it reached from the James River in Richmond, Virginia to the Ohio River. The C & O Railroad bridge, a cantilever truss bridge completed in 1889, was the first railway bridge over the Ohio River. However, by 1929, it was obsolete and a replacement was built adjacent to the original structure. This new bridge was given the same name and is still in use, carrying the CSX Railroad (the C&O’s successor) across the river today.

C & O Railroad Bridge (1929) and adjacent Clay Wade Bridge over the Ohio River
C & O Railroad Bridge (1929) and adjacent Clay Wade Bailey Bridge over the Ohio River

Prior to the construction of the C & O Railroad tracks, 6th Street abutted with Craig Street Burial Ground. From about 1815 to 1843, this was Covington’s main cemetery. In 1872, Covington’s City Council announced that due to “neglect and wanton desecration” the graves (about 1,700) were to be moved to HIghland Cemetery–or relatives could remove them themselves. With hindsight provided by over 100 years, one wonders just how bad of shape the cemetery was in, or if the relocation just happened to coincide with a significant railroad company buying up land for a new route. If you take a look at the 1877 Atlas of Covington, the present day location of 251 W. 6th Street corresponds to the southwest corner of the burial ground. This fact is certainly not a secret, though, as the property is still listed as being located in the “Craig Street Graveyard” subdivision by the county auditor!

1877 Atlas of Covington showing the approximate location of present day 251 W. Sixth Street (map from the NRHP Inventory-Nomination Form, 1983)
1877 Atlas of Covington showing the approximate location of present day 251 W. Sixth Street (map from the NRHP Inventory-Nomination Form, 1983)

So if you are looking for something different to do, stop and take a stroll through Covingon’s historic Mainstrasse Village–and check out 251 W. 6th while you are at it–we are certain that you will find a bit of history in every step.