New cultural tour of Covington's rich heritage gets started

A new program funded by a $130,000 grant from Preserve America may appear to be just a run of the mill cultural heritage tour, but Covington leaders view the new Experience Covington program to be much more than that.

"This is a living history of the city told by the residents of its many neighborhoods," said organizers of the new program which aims to capitalize on the ever-growing heritage tourism industry.

While Covington is the largest city in Northern Kentucky, it also boasts the second largest number of historic structures with the larger city of Louisville holding the top spot.  Combining its number of structures with a strong preservation ethic and the lack of any real heritage tourism program before made Covington a perfect candidate for the Preserve America grant.

Jean St. John, director of Community Arts Initiatives said that, "Kathie Hickey and I had been looking at the Preserve America grant for some time.  She had previously gone through the process of making Covington a Preserve America City, and the City of Covington had embarked on a strategic plan process that identified that one of the City's greatest assets is the preservation of the historic housing stock, our arts and cultural heritage sites and landmarks."

The actual tour has been a work in progress for more than a year. Dr. Rebecca Bailey from Northern Kentucky University's Public History program led four classes to develop a prototype tour, website, oral history classes and an educational component for the tour.  Additional training for the oral history program was provided by the Kentucky Folklife Program and the Kentucky Oral History Commission.

35 sites were identified through surveys and interviews, and 48 oral history interviews were conducted as part of the project. The Kenton County Public Library (map) was selected as the home of the program and will add a new kiosk, playaways and maps by the end of the month.

On Friday, October 2 the City of Covington and the Center for Great Neighborhoods officially launched Experience Covington.  Visitors and residents will now be able to go to the Kenton County Public Library and pick up printed copies of driving maps and neighborhood walking tours, theme-based audio tours, or visit the new Experience Covington website at the kiosk. 

The best part: it's all free and open to the public.

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Photography by Scott Beseler
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