A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Our Rich History: An open invitation to help us celebrate Newport’s 225th anniversary

By Paul A. Tenkotte
Special to NKyTribune

Part 1 of a series, “Resilience and Renaissance: Newport, Kentucky, 1795-2020”

What does it feel like to be 225 years old? As humans, we may never know the answer to that question personally, but we do know it communally. History enables us to experience a slice of life centuries old, even if merely a glimpse. History also invites us to learn from the past, to apply some of its lessons to the present, and to hope for a brighter future for every person.

In 2020, Newport, Kentucky will celebrate the 225th anniversary of its founding. At the Northern Kentucky Tribune, we are dedicated to celebrating this important occasion in style, with many Newport articles throughout the year in “Our Rich History,” and culminating in a book featuring the best of our articles about this historic Ohio River city.

Newport’s history is the story of America. Founded by a wealthy Virginia family shortly after the War for American Independence, Newport became the home of a major US Army arsenal in what was then considered the “American West”–Newport Barracks. It was a focal point for soldiers serving in the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and the Civil War.

Newport Barracks, Ballou’s Pictorial, December 20, 1856, p. 393.

Throughout the decades, Newporters fought their own battles, against catastrophic flooding, on behalf of workers’ rights, for woman’s suffrage, and against gambling, prostitution, and corruption. Its citizens demonstrated courage, tenacity, and hope.

Newport has always embraced hope and change. The Newport Academy became the first public school in the entire Cincinnati area. Likewise, the first railroad bridge over the Ohio River in this region was built at Newport. No wonder that the city quickly became a major manufacturing center, noted especially for iron and steel production, beer, clothing, lumber, and much more.

Situated at the confluence of the Licking and Ohio Rivers, Newport was both blessed and cursed by geography. The Ohio River functioned as the highway to the interior of America. Trade and prosperity abounded. The same rivers lapping at Newport’s doors, however, also attacked the poor and vulnerable who lived in the city’s lowest-lying, flood-prone areas. After the flood of 1937, the largest in historical memory, the city slowly rebounded by building a flood control system and embarking on a massive urban renewal program.

Today, Newport-on-the-Levee, the Newport Aquarium, new hotels, apartments, parks, and pathways grace the city’s Ohio River gateway. A major music venue is under construction, and more projects will begin soon. Beautiful historic homes anchor the city’s east side, while the city west side features restored industrial buildings now housing a distillery, a construction company, and professional offices. The history of the Buena Vista neighborhood in the west side is being rediscovered. Renewport and other visions for the city are moving forward.

We want you to be part of our Newport celebration. History is owned by everyone because it is about all of us. A team of historians, including Paul Tenkotte, Steve Preston, Margo Warminski, Jake Koch, and many others, will be offering a series of historical vignettes of the city.

If you have a family or personal story to tell about Newport, we would like to hear from you and to help you tell that story. Please feel free to contact Paul Tenkotte at tenkottep@nku.edu.

We want to learn more about the history of your business, church, school, or organization in our region (Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, and along the Ohio River). If you would like to share your rich history with others, please contact the editor of “Our Rich History,” Paul A. Tenkotte, at tenkottep@nku.edu. Paul A. Tenkotte, PhD is Professor of History at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) and the author of many books and articles.

Related Posts

One Comment

  1. Roger says:

    Who is writing about the “Bells” of Newport? Not just the Peace Bell, or the church bells, or even the school bells; I am talking about the Bells whose connections and contributions are numerous. From the Fisk singers, the Southgate School, Danville to Liberia, coffee and more.
    And Mrs Bell (today’s totally not p.c. Opinions) these opinions were preserved and reported as a justification for the “Jim crow” attitudes. But if you look closer who played whom?

Reply to Roger Cancel Reply