Covington Lewisburg Neighborhood is Rich in History
For nearly 200 years, the quirky Lewisburg neighborhood has been known for its strong German character
By David E. Schroeder
Driving down Dixie Highway through Park Hills one makes the big bend and Covington lies before you. Specifically, you are in one of Covington’s most unique and interesting neighborhoods—Lewisburg. If you are still not quite sure where Lewisburg is, think about Herb and Thelma’s where you can get one of the best burgers in Greater Cincinnati, St. John Catholic Church, Prince of Peace School and Covington’s Turner Hall. Sounding a little more familiar? Lewisburg rests on a hill tucked away between Mainstrasse Village and Devou Park.
For nearly 200 years, the quirky Lewisburg neighborhood has been known for its strong German character and tight-knit working-class population. One of the first permanent residents of the neighborhood was Dr. Harvey Lewis (the neighborhood was named for him) who owned nearly 90 acres in the heart of the burg. As German immigrants began flooding into Covington, a few found their way to the rugged hills west of downtown. Here, property was cheaper. Lewis began dividing his property into lots in 1842 and thus the Lewisburg neighborhood was born.
In 1835, the Lexington and Covington Turnpike was chartered by the Commonwealth of Covington (now the Dixie Highway). The Pike, as it become known in Covington, passed right through Lewisburg. As a result, the population boomed and the neighborhood quickly filled with residents and businesses.
Industry played a key role in the development of Lewisburg. The location of the Willow Run Creek in the neighborhood attracted a number of slaughterhouses. The creek proved to be a convenient way to dispose of the stripped carcasses. For many years, the banks also proved to be excellent baseball fields.
Breweries quickly followed. One of the earliest was the Duhme & Company Brewery (also known as the Lexington Brewery). The Lewisburg Brewery followed in 1866. The plant was located at the northwest corner of Lewis and Baker Streets. Other breweries in the burg included Covington Star Brewing Company, J.H. Steinriedge, Windisch & Company, J.H. Deglow and Company, J.H. Herzog & Company and Best and Brenner Brewery. The German residents of Lewisburg obviously loved their beer!
The most famous of the Lewisburg Breweries was Bavarian. Julius Deglow and Charles L. Best established what would become Bavarian in 1866 on Pike Street. In 1869, the brewery officially became known as Bavarian. The operation grew and eventually supplanted most of the small breweries in Covington. By 1914, Bavarian occupied a 6 1/2-acre site on Pike Street and was producing 216,000 barrels of beer each year. Prohibition dealt a severe blow to the brewery, which for a time turned to the production of soft drinks. Following Prohibition, the company began selling beer again. Bavarian remained in operation until 1966 when they were bought out by a national chain.
Many of the early residents of Lewisburg were German Catholic. In 1848, they organized the St. Aloysius School Society to raise funds to establish a school in their community. Their efforts were successful, and they purchased several lots at the corner of Leonard and Worth Streets. A school, named Sts. Peter and Paul, was constructed in 1849. Once the school was established the people requested Bishop George Aloysius Carrell to also establish a parish in the burg. The Bishop agreed and in 1854 construction began. The new church was dedicated on December 27, 1854, near the school. At that time the name of the congregation and school were changed to St. John. It was Covington’s third Catholic parish.
Lewisburg was never entirely German Catholic, but this group predominated. Their numbers were so large that the Covington Independent School District never built an elementary school in the neighborhood, one of a very few neighborhoods in Covington without a public school.
Both St. John Church and School were built on a steep hillside. By the late 1800s, both buildings were becoming structurally unsound as the hillside shifted. In 1908, the decision was made to abandon the original property and begin anew on Pike Street (the current site).
On March 1, 1909, Father Antony Goebel was appointed pastor of St. John Parish with the task of building a new school, church and rectory. The first building on the new property was a school (now Prince of Peace Elementary). This large brick building was dedicated on December 27, 1914. A new permanent Gothic Revival church was completed in 1924 at a cost of $250,000. St. John Church was designed by the renowned German-American Architectural firm of Ludewig & Dreisoerner of St. Louis. The interior featured a beautifully decorated wood ceiling, hand-carved Italian marble altars, and stained-glass windows from the firm of Dr. Oidtmann of Linnich, Germany.
The German character of the neighborhood can be also found at Turner Hall. In 1855, a number of German residents of Covington gathered together to discuss the establishment of a Turner Society in their city. The society was officially established on Sept. 13, 1855. Members had to agree to the following: Oppose all laws calling for the prohibition of alcohol, not to vote for any member of the Know Nothing Party, and to oppose the institution of slavery.
The Turner organization promoted physical fitness and over the years sponsored many successful athletic teams for all ages. In 1857, the Covington Turners acquired a home on Pike Street. In 1877, a new structure was completed and has been used as a gymnasium and center for social activities ever since.
The construction on Interstate 75 in the 1950s and 1960s brought great changes to the neighborhood. When the interstate was built, many homes in Lewisburg were demolished. The interstate and a declining population due to suburbanization, made the Lewisburg area a less attractive residential community.
More recently, Covington’s renaissance has been reaching westward and Lewisburg has begun to reap the rewards. Last year’s announcement that the Kenton County Fiscal Court would be moving their offices to the old Bavarian Brewery site has brought about new interest in the community. Things are looking bright for the old burg with new residential and commercial development.