OLD SEMINARY SQUARE | Old Seminary Square History
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History of Old Seminary Square

The neighborhood is usually defined as 18 acres, two-and-a-half blocks wide and five blocks long, bounded on the north by Eighth Street, on the south by 12th Street.

The Seminary Square district contains about 130 buildings, according to a thick file in the historic preservation office, and the majority of buildings are residential.

The neighborhood's name refers to the old Western Baptist Theological Institute, a seminary located there in the 19th century. Established in 1840, it was one of the first schools of its kind solely for the education of young Baptist ministers in Kentucky.

The school had anti-slavery leanings, so controversy eventually broke the institution and trustees sold the property, dividing proceeds equally between Northern and Southern interests.

The surrounding area had become home for the school faculty and had evolved into an affluent residential
neighborhood.

The area around Russell Street continued to attract the affluent because Seminary Square has the highest elevation in the city.

An older neighborhood, Licking Riverside, had been the most fashionable place to live, but flooding and a high incidence of cholera and yellow fever drove some to the drier heights around the old school property.

According to the nomination form to place Seminary Square on the National Register of Historic Places, several affluent and well-known families, including a nationally known painter, Henry F. Farny (1847-1916), called Russell Street home during the mid-to-late 19th century.

Farny emigrated from Alsace in 1853 and launched his career with illustrations of Jefferson Davis in Harper's Weekly in 1865. His illustrations also appeared in McGuffey Readers. Farny lived at 1029-1031 Banklick St. from 1890 until his death in 1916.

One of his best oil-on-canvas paintings, "The Song of the Talking Wire," shows a Native American leaning on a telegraph pole in a wintry landscape. It was painted here in 1904; see it in the Taft Museum of Art, 316 Pike St. in Cincinnati.

Farny's house has long since been torn down.

A fine home still very much intact, including every single set of interior shutters and the ornate beveled glass window in the entry door, is now the law office of Bob Sanders at the corner of Robbins and Russell.

This elaborate 1865 Italianate townhouse with a spectacular roofline was built for lawyer Charles Fisk. Sanders noted the barrister connection when he and his wife, Shirley, bought it to live there in 1972.

Fisk was elected an officer of the Covington and Cincinnati Bridge Co., and brought John Roebling here to build the Suspension Bridge.

The Sanders are only the third owners of the Fisk house, the second being an African-American, George Henderson, who had preserved many Fisk furnishings, offering to sell them to Sanders.

The law office retains a Fisk rocking chair and a walnut armoire, now an office-supply cabinet on the first floor.

The Sanders have another home in Fort Mitchell and keep a condominium in New Orleans' French Quarter, but he still glories in the wide-open spaces of his Fisk house-turned-law office.

He says the best thing about living in an old house is having 14-foot ceilings. "I'm 6-foot-5, so I like the big, high windows and huge rooms -- . There's room for your spirit. It's like it was built for Wilt the Stilt. And the house is intact with its original gas chandeliers, plaster medallions on the ceilings and 12-foot-tall doors."

All the woodwork -- grain-painted in the mid-1800s -- was never marred either.

Source: City of Covington website




Covington High School, 12th and Russell Streets

This is a photo of the old Covington High School, built around 1890 at 12th and Russell Streets.


Bookeeping and shorthand class at Covington High

The high school was located at 12th and Russell Streets, where the Cincinnati Bell service building is now located.


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Murals of
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The once unappealing floodwall at the Covington riverfront has been transformed into a thing of beauty with painted murals that tell about the history of the area.