Q: What Connects Theology, Electrical Manufacturing, and HPOs in Covington, Kentucky?
The nicely renovated 1883 Italianate at 901 Russell Street in Covington, Kentucky is currently looking for a new steward. This 4-bedroom townhouse is a tasteful blend of modern updates and historic character and charm. Located at the corner of Russell and Ninth streets, it is also within Covington’s Seminary Square National Register Historic District (NRHP #8001647, added 1980). Founded in 1815 and known for its beautiful historic neighborhoods, Covington is the largest city in northern Kentucky AND has the most National Register districts (a total of 16) per municipality size in the state.
Seminary Square Historic District is bounded on the north by Ninth Street, on the east by railroad tracks, on the south by Twelfth Street, and on the west by the back property lines of buildings on the western side of Banklick Street. The district consists of structures dating from the early 19th to early 20th centuries, with most of them consisting of late 19th century Victorian townhouses and multi-family dwellings.
This delightful area was originally developed for the faculty of the nearby Western Baptist Theological Institute, founded in 1840. The institute’s property was bounded by Madison, Russell, Eleventh, and Robbins streets. Although one of the first schools of its kind in Kentucky, the Western Baptist Theological Institute did not last much past the Civil War. Despite this, the adjacent neighborhood continued to evolve into an affluent residential neighborhood in its own right and the institute’s former buildings found other uses (a preparatory college and school, and a hospital run by the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis, to name just two). The institute’s main structure was razed in 1916, replaced by the Wadsworth Electric Manufacturing Company building (completed in 1923). The latter also happens to be individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP #93001585) based on its association with significant events in United States history or Criterion A (in addition to the company playing an integral part of the growing electrical industry, George Wadsworth patented an electrical safety switch that controlled current at the point it entered a specific property in 1907, which was huge at the time).
As with many National Register districts, the Seminary Square Historic District is also recognized at the local level. However, it is not called a “local historic district” in Covington but an Historic Preservation Overlay (HPO) Zone instead. 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 particular alterations and demolitions through the Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) process.
So, in answer to the question of what connects theology, electrical manufacturing, and HPOs in Covington…it should be obvious. The Seminary Square National Register Historic District!