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New Mural Recalls 1937 Flood in Covington, Adds to Beautification Effort Near Riverfront

A new mural is now on display in Covington highlighting the region's history and the power of the Ohio River.

The new mural by Covington resident Tammy Batson Stephens adorns the Russell Street Pumping Station in the 200 block of West RiverCenter Boulevard. Stephens’s mural turns the plain cube flood station building into a painted castle, with a depiction on the east wall of the aftermath from the 1937 flood.

The flood station was built in the 1950s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in response to the 1937 flood, when the Ohio River reached nearly 80 feet and caused devastating flooding in nearby communities. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the 1937 flood.

“This symbol of the castle is the insignia of the Corps of Engineers who built the building as a fortress against a rising river,” Stephens said. “I was fascinated by the intricate workings that happen under the city – the great work and sheer mathematics it takes to engineer these huge pumps and power them to pump water and save our businesses and homes from being destroyed. This little castle is here to remind us and to celebrate the power of these pump stations.”

The Russell Street Pumping Station is one of 15 flood pump stations in Northern Kentucky that SD1 now operates. It is activated when the Ohio River rises to 51 feet and 3 inches.

“It’s so easy to overlook infrastructure like this, but this mural will serve as a constant reminder of how important it is to the communities we serve,” said SD1 Executive Director Adam Chaney. “Tammy and the Covington Business Council have used art to connect the flood station with history and a story that will resonate with anyone who passes by it. We’re grateful for their partnership and help in educating the community about flood control.”

The mural was made possible through a generous grant from the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. US Bank Foundation and a partnership between the Covington Business Council and SD1.

The Haile Foundation grant also made possible the addition of decorative LED lighting, spotlights, decorative rocks, and landscaping near the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge.

“The Covington Business Council appreciates the great cooperation of SD1 and the City of Covington in bringing this project to reality,” said CBC Executive Director Pat Frew. “The mural along with the LED lighting and landscaping project along Third Street near Bakewell is an integral part of beautifying the area between the Convention Center and our secondary hotels.”

“This work is so important as this area is highly traveled by guests, especially conventioneers staying in nearby hotels who wish to walk to the Convention Center. We want impressions along this stretch of roadway to be positive. The pump station mural and the lighting project help to accomplish this,” Frew said.

The City of Covington also received a grant to reconstruct West RiverCenter Boulevard from 3rd Street east toward Madison Avenue. As part of the project, the sidewalks along the IRS property will be widened, landscaping will be installed, and new pedestrian lighting will be added to help provide a more inviting walking experience between the local hotels and the area around the convention center.

The project will be advertised this winter and construction will begin early in the spring.

"Once complete and combined with the mural, lighting and landscaping, this corridor will be a bright spot that offers visitors and residents alike a pleasant backdrop as they go about their business," said Covington City Manager David Johnston. "Projects and collaborations like this
help make Covington even more inviting."

About Muralist Tammy Stephens

The daughter of Covington architect Bill Batson, Tammy grew up schooled in Northern Kentucky’s art offerings. A student and later a teacher at the Baker Hunt Foundation, Tammy received a bachelor’s degree in fine art from the Columbus College of Art and Design. In addition to the Russell Street Flood Station mural, Tammy painted the Thousand Hands Playground mural at Sawyer Point.

As an artist with ArtWorks, Tammy also designed and led work on the Helentown mural at Garrard and 15th streets in Covington and the Oakley mural at Taylor and Madison in Cincinnati. Also through ArtWorks, Tammy worked on the Cincinnatus mural at Vine and Central Parkway in Cincinnati. Tammy Lives in Covington with her husband Bryan and has two sons, Tim and Jacob. 

-Staff report

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