You Are Where You Live: the Appealing Aesthetics of Newport’s East Row Historic District

We choose to live in places that fit our lifestyle and personality. As such, homeowners develop an emotional attachment to their home and–while your home is your haven–what is located around your home can be equally important. Aspects of a neighborhood that can trigger a strong attachment to a neighborhood could include great schools, great jobs, proximity to amenities, or  a sense of community spirit. Our quality of life increases if all residents are treated fairly, neighbors look out for one another, folks ask how things are going when they see you in the front yard bringing in your Amazon packages…

The aesthetic character of a neighborhood is another factor that can figure into a homeowner’s emotional attachment. Is there green space? Are there trees? And, particularly for those that love historic homes, is the historic architecture preserved?

The East Row Historic District in Newport, Kentucky, is a neighborhood you can easily become attached too. This district  is the second largest historic district in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, created by joining two of Newport’s historic neighborhoods–Mansion Hill and Gateway (also known as East Newport).

The narrow streets of the district–many of which are lined with beautiful, mature trees–follow a regular grid pattern that dates back well over a century. The lots are narrow and uniform in size, typically 25 or 30 feet wide, and stretch 150 feet deep to abut with the many brick-paved alleys that divide up the blocks.

Houses were built close together with only a shallow setback (and, sometimes, no setback at all) These shallow setbacks, usually defined by low rock walls or iron fences, were encouraged by an early city ordinance dating back to 1796 by the trustees of the newly incorporated town of Newport. Streetscapes are very cohesive, an aspect created by repeating architectural elements such as cornices, gable ends, stoops, and distinct porch treatments from building to building. Due to the tight scale of the neighborhood, there are no divided streets and little open space.

The majority of the buildings in the neighborhood are detached, single family dwellings. A rich assortment of both high-style and vernacular architecture is present, much of which dates between 1865 and 1915. Styles represented include Italianate, Queen Anne, Classical Revival, American Foursquare, Colonial Revival, Eclectic, and Bungalow.

Note the limited number of windows on the north or “non-yard” side of this home.

The neighborhood also has the distinction of sporting a significant local variation of the typical urban brick shotgun house.

Known as the “Newport House”, this variation was popular from 1860 to 1890. Dwellings are typically two or two-and-a-half stories tall and two bays wide with a side passage plan. They are usually built of soft, locally-available orange-colored brick. Sandstone was often used for trim and fieldstone for foundations.  Windows are limited to the side of the building facing one’s own yard with the opposite long wall being blank. Gable roofs are the norm. Side porches with jigsawn wooden ornamentation are common embellishments. The home at 821 Park Avenue, fits this description to a tee.

Typical floorplan of a Newport home (source NRHP Nomination Form, East Newport Historic District).

With few exceptions most of the historic buildings within the neighborhood are of brick and stone construction, with frame being used for smaller, single-story dwellings. Overall, to walk along the tree-lined streets of this neighborhood is certainly an enjoyable and picturesque step back in time. What homeowner wouldn’t become deeply attached to this setting!