The Kenton County Courthouse at the corner of Court and Park Place in Covington has been receiving significant attention in the past few years as the Kenton County Fiscal Court plans to move its central offices to the old Bavarian Brewery property in the Lewisburg neighborhood. Construction on the 10-story structure was begun in 1968. Over time, this building housed county government, Covington city offices and the county jail. Before the modern style office building was constructed, this property was the site of Covington’s Federal Courthouse.

Covington grew rapidly in the years following the Civil War as immigrants flooded into the region. Prior to this time, federal court cases were held in the county courthouse. The post office had moved from building to building to meet the demand.

With the support of national, county and city officials, efforts were made to receive an allocation from the federal government to build a permanent federal courthouse and post office in Covington. Their efforts were rewarded with a $250,000 check from Washington, D.C. Property was purchased in 1875 and was bounded by Scott, Court, Third and Park Place.

Federal officials selected William Appleton Potter, supervising architect of the United States Treasury Department, to design the building. The courthouse was built using native limestone and constructed on a three foot-thick foundation. The exterior was decorated with intricate stone carvings and an ornate mansard roof in the Gothic Revival style of architecture. The interior design was equally impressive and included woodwork done by local artists. Contemporary accounts indicated that ash, fruitwood and oak were used. Marble columns and plaster friezes added dignity to the courtrooms. The cornerstone of the building was set in place on July 4, 1876. Total cost of the structure amounted to $264,231.01.

As postal service in Covington expanded and the court system grew, the Covington Federal Courthouse became inadequate. In 1938, a new federal building was built at the corner of Scott and Seventh streets. The modern three-story stone and marble structure was designed by Louis A. Simon and Thomas Harlan Ellett. The façade was graced with two sculptures by artist Carl L. Schmitz titled “Tobacco” and “Horse Breeding.” The first floor housed the post office and the two upper floors provided room for the federal courtrooms. Unfortunately, the construction of this building resulted in the demolition of Covington Synagogue, Temple Israel on Seventh Street.

The old 1876 structure was sold to Kenton County in 1941 for $15,000. The building became home to the Kenton County Vocational School for the next two decades until a new school was built in Devou Park in 1962. With no tenant, the old federal building quickly deteriorated. It was finally demolished in 1968 to build the current Kenton County Courthouse. The old structure had served the community well and still exhibited many of its original architectural details. In retrospect, saving this building for another use would have been preferable.

Eventually the 1938 Federal Building on Scott Street became inadequate and a new federal courthouse was constructed on West Fifth Street between Madison Avenue and Russell Street in 1995 on the former site of Notre Dame Academy. United States District Judge William O. Bertelsman was the driving force behind this much-needed improvement. The federal building on Scott Street remained a post office and still serves this purpose.

The varied history of courthouses and post offices in Covington is an interesting one. In the past, we have demolished the old to make way for the new. Current plans for the new county courthouse under the direction of Kenton County Judge Executive Kris Knochelmann and the Fiscal Court are evolving in a different direction with the preservation of the Bavarian Brewery and the reuse and adaptation of the old courthouse. Thus, our built history is preserved and the public receives better services and accommodations.

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