Citizens Telephone Building Goes Under Knife, Woodford May Be Next

"The second floor screams residential."

The historic Citizens Telephone Building is the latest Downtown Covington structure to undergo a restoration. But new owners Martin and Marilyn Wade, who acquired it from the estate of late Northern Kentucky attorney Lanny Holbrook, are not yet sure what they are going to do with it.

"We don't really have any plans for it," said Justin Dean, who manages projects for the Wades. The couple owns several buildings in Covington's Roebling Point entertainment district, including the ones that house Roebling Point Books & Coffee and Blinker's, and the vacant lot that was previously the site of Barton's, a building that was razed last year.

The Wades also own the Woodford apartment building, a large historic structure that sits at the foot of the Roebling Suspension Bridge, directly behind the Citizens Telephone Building. It currently has a couple dozen units in it but Dean said the owners are looking at a possible historic restoration which would reduce that number back to the original sixteen apartments.

When it was first built, the Woodford had four units on each of its four floors with kitchenettes. There was a full service restaurant in the basement that served breakfast, lunch and dinner. "We're working with a contractor now to figure out what goes well with what and whether it makes any sense to take it back to the original sixteen units because if that happens, it's a twelve to eighteen month project," Dean said.

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Woodford Building/RCN

Meanwhile, work is underway at the Citizens Telephone Building. "It looks to me like a single-use tenant on the first floor would be nice. It's such a big, open floor plan. I would hate to put up walls and cover up the ceilings," Dean said. The original punched tin ceiling remains inside as does an original curved staircase that had been hidden inside some newer walls. The contractors are working carefully to salvage all historic elements inside.
They also discovered an old switchboard inside the building that pre-dates the telephone. A lot of railroad telegraphs were sent through the building.
In its next life, it could be an ideal office space for an architecture or law firm, Dean said, or it would be a nice place for residences, particularly on the second floor where there are unobstructed views of the bridge and the Cincinnati skyline. Dean said he is working with City Hall to identify potential tenants and uses.

As for the vacant lot where Barton's once stood, the Wades are kicking around ideas for what to do there, too. "We're working on a couple different scenarios over there. Nothing to report yet," Dean said.

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