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Our Rich History: ‘Happy Homes’ in ‘brand new’ 1924 subdivision of Park Hills encouraged homeownership

This Kentucky Post Happy Home still stands today at the corner of Terrace Avenue and Amsterdam Road.

This Kentucky Post Happy Home still stands today at the corner of Terrace Avenue and Amsterdam Road.

By Paul A. Tenkotte
Special to the NKyTribune

It was October 1924, and the nation was booming. The Roaring ‘20s seemed so full of optimism and hope. The region’s principal newspaper, The Kentucky Post, shared in that optimism and aimed to educate its readers about the benefits of homeownership.

The brand new subdivision of Park Hills lay just west of the Covington city limits, along the Ft. Mitchell streetcar line. Developed by D. Collins Lee and Robert C. Simmons, the 1920s subdivision of Park Hills featured city water, sewage and gas lines, electricity, proximity to Devou Park, and convenient accessibility to the city.

Beautifully planned, its spacious building lots, tree-lined paved streets, and concrete public walkways and steps placed everyone within a short walking distance of an architecturally-pleasing stone streetcar stop.

Working with the subdivision developers, financiers, and John H. Beckman, a Covington contractor, The Kentucky Post devised a plan to build at least 50 affordable “Happy Homes” in Park Hills. Small in size by today’s standards, but spacious by those of the 1920s, the first model home featured 5 rooms and a bathroom. It style was described as a Spanish bungalow with a red tile roof, popular in California, but built for the Kentucky climate.

The terms were very affordable for the average middle class family: $1,000 down and about $6,000 additional paid in weekly “rent” payments averaging $10.08 per week. The $7,000 price included a lot valued at $1,500.

Anyone interested in buying a lot and building a house was advised to apply to the Kentucky Post Happy Home Editor.

Why would anyone want to make a landlord rich if they could afford a new home of their own? As the Kentucky Post stated on Monday, October 6, 1924, “Considering home building from an investment point of view, it is easy to see that if a landlord makes money on the rent he charges you for the privilege of living in his house, you certainly should be able to make money on a home of your own provided you build economically and finance wisely.”

The key to making the houses affordable, the Post claimed, was volume, and working with partners interested in making the American dream of homeownership an achievable goal.

The contractor used local materials, including concrete blocks for the foundations, manufactured by the Marion F. Stout Co. of 34th and Decoursey in Covington. The furnace choice was the “Dixie Furnace,” made by the Gottschalk Furnace Co. of 242 Pike Street in Covington. Other partners included Cassidy’s Hardware (25 Pike St.), John T. Underhill Plumbing Co. (412 Scott St.), the Bishopric Stucco Co., and the T.W. Spinks Building Supply Co. (1512-1540 Russell St.)

“Movie crews” were on hand on Sunday, October 12, 1924 to film potential homebuyers and visitors. The Liberty Theater of Covington showed newsreels of the progress of construction of the model home, which opened that fall. And, the Kentucky Post followed the construction progress in its daily pages.

Today, as you drive through Park Hills, you’ll spot Happy Homes here and there, as well as fabulous English Tudors, and of course, a couple of the subdivision’s original stone streetcar stops. Built in an era when homes possessed individuality, the city of Park Hills remains a desirable address for those seeking historic residential alternatives.

Paul A. Tenkotte (tenkottep@nku.edu) is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Public History at NKU. With other well-known regional historians, James C. Claypool and David E. Schroeder, he is a co-editor of the new 450-page Gateway City: Covington, Kentucky, 1815-2015, now available at your local booksellers, the Center for Great Neighborhoods in Covington and online sellers.

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