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Remembering Early Savior of Covington's Historic Homes

Recently, Karen Rafuse passed away. She was a strong proponent for the preservation of Covington's Licking Riverside neighborhood and she and her husband, Peter, owned the Carneal House. Here, friend and neighbor Virginia Kerst shares some of Karen Rafuse's story.

Peter Rafuse salvaged part of the wreckage of the original Covington City Hall which was torn down to build the Kenton County Administration Building that now stands nearly empty. The rubble had been dumped over the riverbank near their house and he designed the fountain located in George Rogers Clark Park which integrates a piece of that architectural salvage. Peter was also a member of the committee to design and install the statues on Riverside Drive.

Karen and Peter bought the Carneal House (the Rafuses are pictured above at the historic property) which had been divided into many apartments by the late 1970's and eventually turned it into The Carneal House Bed & Breakfast, a very popular destination for many years. She provided breakfasts as a gourmet cook having owned "Cook's Night Out", a gourmet carryout in Cincinnati's O'Bryonville neighborhood, editing a cookbook for the Cincinnati Art Museum, From Palette to Palate, and catering numerous events in the area.

Karen was a stalwart in the history, arts, and preservation movements for many years. She nearly single-handedly saved the Mosler Safe Building (now home to a BB&T Bank branch at Third Street and Scott Boulevard) from the wrecking ball. She was active with or an officer of the Heritage League, the women's committee of the Cincinnati Art Museum, Northern Kentucky Arts Council (early saviors of the Carnegie Arts Center building), the Victorian Society, Roebling Gateway Park Corporation, Historic Northern Kentucky Foundation, among others.

In the late 60's she was a major player in defending Riverside Drive from the Urban Renewal threat that very nearly demolished all of the structures on Riverside Drive and Second Street in order to build condominiums. She was equally adamant about all Historic Preservation and could be found front and center at any opportunity to preserve Covington's heritage.
Karen was instrumental in founding the Historic Licking Riverside Civic Association, the first neighborhood association in Covington. She organized countless home tours, garden tours, fundraisers, and social events to promote the beautiful neighborhood she helped save and to raise money to continue its beautification.
In 2010 the NKY River Cities Excellence in Historic Preservation Awards established "The Karen and Peter Rafuse Memorial Award" in recognition of individual dedication to the preservation of Covington's architectural and cultural heritage. Karen was the first person recognized with the award and it has been awarded to other individuals annually since then.
Photos via Kenton Co. Public Library