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Lee–Holman Historic District (Covington, Kentucky)

The District offers rich history, architectural style and community. For over a century Lee-Holman businesses and dwellings served the working class. Shotgun homes comprise a significant portion of the structures in the District. They are critically significant to the fabric of the city.

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Part of the westside neighborhood of Covington, Kentucky, this small residential district encompasses approximately 60 acres.  It is bounded by Lee Street on the west, West Robbins St. on the north, Holman St. on the east, and W 12th St. on the south.

The mainly narrow streets once featured a business district that included wagon-makers, a foundry, lumberyard, and cotton mill.  The neighborhood also featured closely spaced frame and brick working-class housing from the mid-19th to early 20th century, most set close to the sidewalk.  There are 152 contributing structures and 8 non-contributing buildings contained in the district.  The majority of structures are 2.5 to 3 stories tall and built prior to 1877.  The forms tend to be narrow and long, reflecting the available lot size…roofs are generally low-pitched front or side gable types.

The district contains examples of houses which represent several architectural styles and types popular during their construction.  The earliest structures of Greek Revival Style were most likely built soon after the subdivision was founded in 1815.  The Italianate style of architecture corresponds with the major period of the districts development during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Several variations of the Italianate town homes are incorporated with Second Empire architecture.  A mansard roof, which provided an increase in living space on the uppermost floor is a signature feature of this variation.  A few examples of the Queen Anne Style of architecture are also located within the district.

Several examples of a regionally unique house type, known as the Northern Kentucky or Covington/Newport House can be found in the district on Holman, W. Robbins, and W. 12th Sts.  This house type, predominantly constructed in brick, is identified by the overall shape and floor plan.  The free-standing structure is usually 2.5 to 3 stories tall with a 2 bay front, rectangular footprint, and its principal entrance on the side instead of in the front.

The Orchard Street shotguns are several identical homes originally built in the late 1800’s. The “shotgun” floor plan is one room wide, several rooms deep and is noted for ornamented facades fronting modest structures. Built for laborers to be near employment and the city center, shotguns were affordable based on their use of space. The design traces back to African and Haitian roots. It is dubbed “shotgun” by popular American folklore proposing a shotgun bullet fired directly through the open front door will exit straight through the open back door of the home, unobstructed.

After World War II, shotgun homes were seen as functionally obsolete and abandoned in favor of the modern ranch home. Facing demolition, Kentucky historic guidelines prohibited the homes from being torn down.   In 2014, the Center for Great Neighborhoods, with the help of a grant from the Kresge Foundation, redeveloped the 5 remaining shotgun row houses.

Lee–Holman Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.


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