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Photos: Historic Covington Mansion Hits Market

The sprawling mansion at the corner of Second and Kennedy Streets in Covington's Licking Riverside Historic District has only been occupied by three families since it was built in 1865.

Jim and Fran Allen have meticulously maintained and renovated the property for the last thirty-eight years but have decided to down-size now that they are both retired. The home is now on the market for $2.2 million.

Known as The Laidley House, the mansion is named for the man who built it at  the end of the Civil War, Frederick Alexander Laidley, a prominent businessman and steamboat magnate.

The Allens have not only kept a keen eye on the property but also on its history. They authored a book together and Fran has written several essays about Laidley and the home.

An excerpt from one of her pieces:

By 1866 (Laidley) was Captain of this same boat.  In 1867 he moved to Cincinnati permanently as the agent for the Kanawha Salt Company.  From there his business ventures and partnering associations grew so numerous over the next 40-50 years that it is difficult to name them all.  
From 1873 to 1896 he was in the pork-packing business; by 1891 he was general manager and treasurer of the Louisville & Cincinnati Packet Company.  With this company, he built and operated two of the best and fastest boats on the Ohio River, the famed City of Louisville and the City of Cincinnati.  These two steam boats and five others were called the “White Collar or White Packet” Line.  Captain Laidley was an original stockholder of the Common Carrier Company and president of the Louisville & Evansville Transportation company.  
All of these companies were in the business of transporting freight and/or passengers up and down the Ohio River.  He was president of the Licking Coal & Towboat Company which supplied steamboats with coal and provided harbor towing services and in 1881 he began shipping meat by rail with the Cincinnati Southern Railroad to southern cities such as; Chattanooga, Atlanta, Macon, Mobile, Montgomery and many others.  
He was also head of the U.S. Mail Line and experienced success after success.
Captain Laidley also had a rich and rewarding personal life.  In 1866, he married Miss Julia A. Rook from Malden, West Virginia and they had four children: Frederick Rook, Elsie Louise, Mary B. (Dimples) and Marguerite (Dottie).  They lived, in what is now know as the Laidley House at 404 E. Second Street in Covington, Kentucky, surrounded by other magnificent homes of the pre and post Civil War period.  
During the mid 1800’s and into the early 1900’s the Laidley’s home was a center for hospitality, known for glowing lights, great balls and lovely parties.
However, this idyllic lifestyle and Captain Laidley’s roll as prominent businessman would come to an abrupt end after the winter of 1917-1918.  During this winter the Ohio and Licking Rivers froze in many places and in 1918 an ice gorge destroyed almost all of his treasured steam boats.  After that, most of Laidley’s great wealth was gone.   Captain Laidley lived out the rest of his life in his Covington home on Second Street and he passed away after a short illness at the age of 90 in December of 1931.

Fran also penned an essay on the house for the Encyclopledia of Northern Kentucky:

The Laidley House was built in 1865 just after the Civil War and the architecture or style of the house has been variously described as; Victorian with Gothic details, French Second Empire, and Italianate Villa.  But whatever it is called, it is an imposing and beautiful three story mansion.  
A visitor to this house will first be impressed by it’s setting on the property and its lovely façade. It is surrounded by a stone wall topped with an iron fence and the property is entered through a decorative iron gate.  The house itself is orange red brick with a white Kentucky limestone foundation and massive front steps, a limestone trimmed entrance, corners and windows.  If you look up as you approach the house, you will see an octagonal cupola sitting on top of the colorful slate faced mansard roof like the decorative top of an elaborate wedding cake.  
After walking up the front steps, you will find yourself at the glass paneled front door inside an intricately carved walnut stained wooden entrance with folding paneled doors and a black and white, checkerboard patterned marble floor.
Just inside the front door is a long rectangular entrance hall with an elaborate parquet floor and a winding staircase to the third floor with its own unusual parquet stair treads.  
On your right is a pool room which is thought to have been a gentleman’s smoking parlor and on the left is a large living area originally called “the ballroom”.  This ballroom has a large bay window on the entrance side and wonderful white plaster decorations of morning glories and leaves all around the edges of the fourteen foot ceiling.  At the end of the entrance hall are two doors; one is the entrance to the dining room and the other is a door to an exterior L shaped porch with heavy carved pillars and balustrade, which has a view of the Ohio River.
See the listing and a video tour: Laidley House
Photos by The River City News: