East Row Historic District of Newport is the second largest Historic District in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The East Row was created by joining two of Newport's Historic Neighborhoods, Mansion Hill and Gateway.
The first documented European visitors to the Ohio River Valley were French trappers and priests in the early and mid 1700s. These trail blazers were so impressed with the river's heavily wooded and hilled shores, and with the valley's abundance of fish and wildlife, the priests took to calling the Ohio la Belle Riviere , or, the Beautiful River, in their reports and journals.
The establishment of Newport can be traced to pioneers traveling down the Ohio River by flatboat to seek new lives in an untamed wilderness. Upon reaching the Ohio River's confluence with the Licking River, which flows north out of Northern Kentucky, many stopped to settle and take advantage of the area's large, flat flood plain. This was the beginning of what would become the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky metropolitan region.
General James Taylor pioneered Newport in the 1790s on 1,500 acres inherited from his father. This land had been acquired in a trade with George Muse, who had been awarded land patent grants for serving in George Washington's provincial regiment, the Virginia Blues, in the French and Indian War. He pioneered Newport with his sophisticated and wealthy new wife Keturah Moss Leitch. Well-connected with Washington politics (Taylor was a cousin to both President Zachary Taylor and President James Madison), the Taylors brought colonial culture to an area shared by the Shawnee, Wyanodotte and Delaware tribes of Native Americans and rugged, free-spirited adventurers like Daniel Boone and Jacob Fowler.
Named after Christopher Newport, commander of the first English ships to settle Jamestown, Va., in 1603, Newport was founded in 1795, developing quickly as military outpost. Newport Barracks supplied soldiers in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. In 1893, military operations were moved from Newport to a hilltop a few miles away in Fort Thomas.
Newport expanded rapidly to become a center of trade, industry and culture, growing in tandem with its neighbor, Cincinnati, known in the 1800s as Queen City of The West. The advent of steam-powered riverboats in the 1800s accelerated the region's economic and cultural expansion, with early Cincinnati eclipsing Chicago (then still little more than an outpost) as one of the premiere cities of a young United States.
The Establishment of the East Row
The Victorian era was Newport's most affluent period, as is evident by the East Row's elegant houses, which look much as they did more than 100 years ago. The establishment of the East Row was made possible when, motivated by Newport's rapid growth, the grandson of Gen. James Taylor decided to subdivide the family's estate as Taylor's Row Addition. The area became a favorite of wealthy business owners and merchants in the late 1800s.
A walk through the East Row's tree lined streets can transport you back to the late 19th Century. The neighborhood is a living display of distinct architectural styles -- such as Italianate, American Four Square and Queen Anne -- executed in eclectic and elegant fashion.
Influenced by a variety of socio-economic factors, Newport's economic focus in the mid 20th Century shifted to gambling and entertainment, as casinos, nightclubs and houses of ill-repute sprang up around town. Most of these businesses were operated or at least influenced by gangsters. Newport gained a national reputation as a wide-open city. At one point, it was common to see celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and others walking along Newport's downtown streets.
The Revitalization and What We Are Today
When the establishment of Las Vegas drained the glitter from Newport's night life, the entertainment industry here assumed a decidedly seedy air. Alarmed by the city's rapid decline, community activists banded to reform Newport's corrupt city government and redirect the city's focus. Revitalization of the East Row was one of the first results of this new direction, as doctors, lawyers, artists and others -- including many longtime Newport residents -- began restoring the district's historic homes in the 1980s. To this day, pockets of historic homes available for rehabilitation can be found throughout East Row.
East Row Historic District is home to 1,070 homes and is Kentucky's second largest historic district. All buildings in East Row have the distinction of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Energized in part by the East Row's success, Newport is experiencing a renaissance that has garnered national attention, including coverage by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Just blocks away from East Row, the city's riverfront and northern business district are undergoing dramatic redevelopment, with Riverboat Row already a thriving riverfront district of restaurants and clubs. With the Newport Aquarium, Newport on the Levee,The World Peace Bell, and a long list of other projects in the works, this is one of the most exciting periods in Newport's history.