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Bellevue Neighborhood to Be Considered for National Register

Fourteen nominations to the National Register of Historic Places will be considered during a meeting of the Kentucky Historic Preservation Review Board in Frankfort on Tuesday - including the Bonnie Leslie neighborhood in Bellevue.

Among the proposals is a multiple property submission documenting the growth and development of the Kentucky State Parks system from 1924 through 1973, and an individual listing for Lake Cumberland State Resort Park in Jamestown, which includes 67 contributing resources such as cottages and residences, picnic areas and shelters, trails and scenic overlooks, a nature center and two lodges.

The review board is charged with evaluating nominations prior to their submission to the National Park Service (NPS), which will issue a final determination of listing within 45 days of receipt. The Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office administers the National Register program in Kentucky and provides administrative support to the board.

The Bonnie Leslie neighborhood represents a 20th century suburban neighborhood of single-family homes developed between 1920 to 1940, and includes 232 contributing buildings.

The National Register is the nation’s official list of historic and archeological resources deemed worthy of preservation. Kentucky has the fourth-highest number of listings among states, with more than 3,400.

Listing can be applied to buildings, objects, structures, districts and archeological sites, and proposed sites must be significant in architecture, engineering, American history, or culture.

Owners of National Register properties may qualify for state and/or federal tax credits for rehabilitation of these properties to standards set forth by the Secretary of the Interior, as certified by the Kentucky Heritage Council, or by making a charitable contribution of a preservation easement. National Register status does not affect property ownership rights, but does provide a measure of protection against adverse impacts from federally funded projects.

Architectural styles seen in the Bonnie Leslie neighborhood include colonial revival, Tudor revival, neoclassical, as well as American-style craftsman.

From the nomination:

Bellevue was incorporated on March 15, 1870, with 381 residents.1 In the mid-1890s, Bonnie Leslie is mentioned for the first time in local newspapers, described as a hamlet south of Bellevue and the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, and east of Newport. It was annexed by the city of Bellevue in 1894. Though there was scattered development in the first quarter of the 20th century, the building out of Bonnie Leslie occurred between the World Wars. In 1928, the heirs of H.C. Spinks, a local developer, filed the first plat for the Bonnie Leslie development. It does not appear that the Estate of H.C. Spinks, headed by Laura Spinks, was involved in actual construction of Bonnie Leslie. Rather, the company sold lots, either to individual homeowners, or to home builders. During the 1930s, mention of the neighborhood invariably stated “Bonnie Leslie” followed by a parenthetical notation, Spinks Subdivision.


Bellevue, like its neighbors, developed southward from the Ohio River. Topography in the form of higher elevation and the town’s relatively narrow riverfront meant that the periodic flooding from the river did not devastate the town to the degree that Dayton and Newport were impacted. For the first two decades following the incorporation of the town in 1870, growth was quite slow.

Bellevue gained a reputation as a “quiet residential community rather than a manufacturing town.” The original town plat encompassed only the northwest corner of the current city boundaries. Fewer than 25 houses were built from 1875 to 1884, “owing to a stagnant condition caused by limited powers possessed by the new town.” But development was not long in coming. By 1884, Bellevue had become a fourth-class city. A city directory from the 1890s catalogued 56 local businesses, including “15 groceries, four bakeries, six boot makers, seven confectioneries, two livery stables, a blacksmith, three millineries, six doctors, seven saloons, a hotel, a gas company, two undertakers, and a wagon manufacturer.”

As the town expanded and grew, it followed the patterns of development found in neighboring Newport and Covington: narrow streets and narrow lots prompted narrow buildings, with minimal setback from the street. Many side-passage-plan houses, and the local variant, the Covington/Newport Townhouse, were built. In the last decade of the 19th century, the newly formed streetcar line linked Bellevue to Newport, Covington, and Dayton, encouraging growth in the area, and making it a more convenient place to live. The streetcar would prove to be an amenity in the later development of the Bonnie Leslie District. An 1890s promotional brochure touts the benefits of Bellevue, the “ideal suburb.” The town was described as “entirely removed from the smoke and smell of Cincinnati,” claims that were later reiterated by the promoters of Bonnie Leslie in the 1930s. Unlike Newport and Covington, the late-19th-century development of Bellevue was “markedly different,” in that Bellevue functioned primarily as a bedroom community. Most of Bellevue’s residents were “employed either in Newport or over the river in Cincinnati.”

Bellevue expanded its boundaries by annexation in 1894, by adding the Kennedy Subdivision, the Nagel and Beyland Subdivision, the South Bellevue and Dayton Subdivision, the Bonnie Leslie Subdivision, and the East Newport Subdivision.

At the close of the 19th century, the town covered around 1,000 acres with a population of just over 3,000 residents.

Read more from the full nomination here.

-Staff report

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