Times-Star Salutes Latonia-Rosedale-Decoursey


Latonia changes, and remains the same.

 Pioneer families that built the community die out, but worthy successors take their place.  Businesses live and die but others are born to flourish. For Latonia is not a few families or commercial enterprises.  It is a community of 20,000, where almost every family owns its own home and every home is in the shadow of a church spire.

 This solidarity, this evidence of Christianity was fostered by two of Latonia’s most beloved leaders, the late Rev. John B. Reiter, pastor of Holy Cross Church, and the late Rev. H. C. Runyan, pastor of Latonia Christian Church.

 These men were friends.  They might banter over checkers or the merits of the Latonia Race Track, but for over three decades they served Latonia, building their churches and helping to set the moral tone of the community. 

Father Reiter built the imposing Holy Cross Church, grade school, high school, and rectory.  He planned so well that only now is the Rev. Thomas B. Finn, the present pastor, enlarging the educational and recreational facilities for the 900 pupils of Holy Cross.

 Brother Runyan’s friends were legion, crossing all religious lines and he was the most sought after speaker of this day.

 From the beginning of the Latonia Race Track in the days following the Civil War until its close in 1936, the track brought famous horses and racing names to Latonia.  But all through those days there were two ways to look from the fence.

 If a race fan gazed straight ahead he saw the parade to the post, the landscaped infield, and a backdrop of verdant Kentucky hills; but if he looked over his shoulder, there were the church spires and homes. 

 That Latonia never changes.

 Long ago a ferry plied from Latonia to Campbell County but the railroad came to the Latonia Flats.  With the railroad came the first boom for the community.  The north-south and east-west tracks of the Louisville & Nashville cross in Latonia.  It became a railroading center and the trainmen found it convenient to live nearby.

 Decoursey Yards near town contained the repair shops.  Through these yards poured coal from the rich Kentucky fields and later the yards became one of the big re-icing depots of the country as fresh fruits and vegetables paused on their trip to northern consumers.

 The offices of the Cincinnati District under Superintendent Maurice R. Black still employ 70 in Latonia.  More man the Decoursey shops and yards and move in and out with the trains.

 This was once a separate city, with the suburb of Rosedale in the south, and Dinsmore Park to the east.  After the turn of the century it all became part of Covington and the whole southern area is referred to as Latonia. 

Death Valley.  It has been nicknamed for years, but no one seems to know how the term originated.  Some say that it originated with horse players who lost all at Latonia.  Others claim that after annexation the nickname was given by politicians who left Covington proper with healthy majorities only to be mired in defeat in Latonia Flats.

 With a home-loving, home-owning people, Latonia was always strong financially.  The building associations and the bank flourished.  The First National of Latonia claims that its Dr. H. C. White, with 47 years in office, is the eldest bank president in the country in point of service.

 The hub of the city is Ritte’s corner, named after the late Henry Ritte, who once operated a cafĂ© at the northeast corner of Southern and Decoursey, where a liquor store now stands.

 There was a fountain and a horse trough in the middle of the intersection. Horses fancied the trough, but automobiles did not.  The fountain was removed.  Some folks say that it was to save the life of a certain beloved Latonian whose automobile would not stay out of the fountain.

 As other names have left the community, so have the Rittes.  Walter Ritte, prominent Latonian and last in Latonia to bear the name has his home for sale and will move soon to be near his daughter in Michigan.

 Latonia is the largest oil center between Lima, O., and the South, with the Latonia Refinery and in the Ashland depot.  For still wider acclaim there are Monte Casino wines with national distribution and Liberty cherries throughout the world.

 It is an old community, but there is no sign of decay. The homeowners, the retailers and the manufacturers keep their property in the best of condition. Besides the addition to Holy Cross School, the residents are looking forward to a completely new Ninth District School in the fall.

 For recreation there are the old YMCA grounds (now city owned), Rosedale Park, and Shady Shores fishing lake and grounds.  Perhaps the best is yet to come.

 Under the inspiration of the Kiwanis Clubs, the city is filling the ground at Eastern and James Avenues for the finest park of its kind.  In the future is a park at Banklick Creek landfill.

 Latonia is always the same.  Progress was ever part of its nature.


Fred Read is the author of this article is from the Kentucky Times-Star of Tuesday, April 23, 1957.