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Latonia Neighborhood Up for National Historic Designation

"Latonia's choice in 1909 to dissolve its independent government as a way to confront their fiscal predicament certainly could not have been an easy decision. What we see in this district though is not lost local identity, which is a fear which can inhibit collaborating with parties holding other interests. Latonia as a community found ways to maintain its core identity even after it fused the larger political entity, Covington."

The Ritte's East neighborhood in Latonia will be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. An application was created by the Latonia Small Area Study, the Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington, and the City of Covington's historic preservation officer, Beth Johnson. The plans were presented at this week's meeting of the city's urban design review board which endorsed the idea.

It has been nearly fifteen years since the last time a Covington neighborhood was added to the Register, Johnson said, and after Ritte's East, the city may move to add Peaselburg next.

"It makes a lot more people eligible for tax credits in areas and districts that haven't been touched before," Johnson said.

Ritte's East first applied to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) last fall but was rejected because the focus was solely on the architecture in the neighborhood but didn't tell the story, said Clare Norwood of the Center for Great Neighborhoods. She worked with "Latonia history buff" Lisa Gilliam and a pair of interns to take photos and log data, part of plans to apply to the Register again as first announced publicly in December.

"The houses in Latonia are pretty amazing," Norwood said. "You have some grander houses and a lot of vernacular infill, kind og unique to the story of Latonia as well."

The neighborhood saw a huge boom around 1883 with the opening of the Latonia Racetrack. 

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Norwood said that the proposed boundaries of the district, pictured above, work well because it is near Ritte's Corner which was placed on the National Register in 1987 and Holy Cross Church which was added in 2011.

The layout of the streets, the style of the houses, and the many healthy remnants of Latonia's past lend themselves to likely success of the application. 

"We could not find the name 'Covington' anywhere in Latonia and that's kind of an interesting fact. There has been a real fight to maintain their own identity," Norwood said.

The neighborhood is comprised mostly of residences built before 1949 in the styles of Queen Anne, Colonial, Tudor Revival, American Four Square and Prairie, Italianate, and Bungalow.

The idea of historical designation may be of concern to some homeowners but Norwood said that there is no reason to worry. 

"It essentially means that if you want to qualify for amazing tax credits from the state, you need to follow national guidelines, not city guidelines," she said. "You can still do anything you want to your home if you're in a district on a National Register. Paint it purple, do vinyl everywhere. Have a vinyl front yard. You just won't get the tax credit."

Some of the guidelines include keeping original windows and leaving the original floor plan in tact as much as possible. "Because a district is on the National Register doesn't mean Beth will be bossing you around," Norwood said.

A public meeting will be held for neighbors to weigh in on the topic. That meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 5, at 6 p.m. inside the Latonia Baptist Church.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News