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Renovation of Covington Houses Become National Story

A Covington preservation project has scored national attention.

Shotgun Row, the five historic rowhouses in the city's Westside neighborhood that were saved and transformed by the Center for Great Neighborhoods, is the focus of a story in Preservation Magazine, the official publication of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Take a look at this excerpt:

When staff from the Center finally had the chance to assess the buildings, they realized they looked just as bad—if not worse—from the inside as they did from the outside.

“The water damage was so severe; there were sections of the houses you couldn’t even walk on,” says Adam Rockel, the Center’s program manager for real estate development, who oversaw the project day to day. “Things were so rotted, I could tear out wood with my bare hands. You had fungi growing in the basement that were unlike anything I had ever seen.”

“[From the outside], all the gingerbread and fish scale was so covered up that people thought they were trailers,” says Program Director for Community Development Rachel Hastings. “As we were continuing to do all this rehab, people would ask, ‘What’s happening over there? When are the trailers going to go away?’”

For Kevin Kluender, an architect with the Cincinnati firm Drawing Dept., trying to re-create the homes’ original Victorian-era facades was like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. “There wasn’t a single building that was 100 percent intact, but if one was 75 percent intact, another would have the lacking 25 percent, so we could kind of mash things together,” he says.

And while the facades could be restored to their original designs, the interiors were simply too far gone. Construction crews were able to preserve the brick fireplaces in three of the five homes, but the decision was made to update everything else, both because of the interior conditions and in hopes of appealing to contemporary tastes.

The project won a preservation award from the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 2015, and was celebrated in 2014 as being a signal that the Westside had been changed from a neighborhood once riddled with crime to one on to watch as an area of growth.

Current projects in the neighborhood near Shotgun Row include a house made from shipping containers and an effort to preserve the new Orchard Park where Covington's urban agriculture movement has been centered.

Read the full article in Preservation Magazine here.

-Staff report

Photo: Shotgun Row during the construction phase (RCN file)