Covington had become the second largest city in Kentucky by the 1900s, functioning as Northern Kentucky’s financial center and home to both First National Bank and German National Bank.
It was incorporated in 1834 but the city could not keep up with Cincinnati’s river commerce directly across the water, due to having shallow banks that prevented boats from docking. There was still hope for this growing city.
A boom of German immigrants had filled Covington to the brink, presenting a dire need for the expansion of neighbourhoods and resources for the growing German community. With new traditions, food, music, and culture, the Germans also brought Catholicism.
Covington’s two most prominent, historic German neighbourhoods are the Mainstrasse (“Main Street”) Village and Mutter Gottes (“Mother of God”). Mutter Gottes at is tucked in between Mainstrasse Village’s Main Street and Covington’s Central Business District, and the Licking-Riverside Historic District.
The entire Mutter Gottes district has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980, and includes over 150 buildings among 15 acres.
Mutter Gottes took on its current name because of its focal point, the Mutter Gottes Kirche. This stunning Catholic church was first built in 1871, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
This cathedral is known for being the essential Renaissance church with twin towers, a Koehnken Organ, murals by a famous Vatican artist named Johann Schmitt, and becoming even more ornate in its second rendition after the first was destroyed.
As time passed, more German communities were accepted into the Covington fold, solidifying its connection to the people and ways of Germany. This became a commonality among cities of Northern Kentucky and Southern Ohio.
In 1851, the city of Covington annexed two German neighbourhoods named Austinburg and Lewisburg, and a third called Peaselburg in 1907. The St. Augustine Catholic Church (now destroyed) was built in 1913, and the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption was completed in 1915.
One year later, Covington annexed yet another German-Catholic community called Economy, now named Botany Hills, centered around St. Anne’s Church. Botany Hills was first platted in 1846 and its chapel was constructed in 1862.
From any point in Mutter Gottes, you can see the towers of one of these churches in the background.
Mutter Gottes is largely a residential neighbourhood.
In the northern part of the district, between 4th and 5th Streets, there are some cool places like The Standard and the House of Orange, and on the other end there a few restaurants like La Rosa’s, The Globe, Del Gardo’s Cannoli, and Wabi Sabi Sushi.
The most exciting part of the district is a short stretch of Pike Street, where it runs between 6th Street and 7th Street.
Swanky cocktail lounges and coffee shops like Agave & Rye, Bircus Brewing Co., Ripple Wine Bar, The Hanaford, Old Towne Tavern, and North South Baking Company are all packed in between business like Frank’s Men’s Shop, Klingenberg’s Hardware & Paint, Kentucky Botanical Co., Grainwell Boutique, yoga studios, pottery galleries, and City Hall.
My favourite store here is definitely Hierophany & Hedge, an arcane magick/herbal/metaphysical shop.
Their media and personas are quirky and lovably pretentious, but I think they do possess a special set of knowledge and skills.
A large window display of occult books and a looming, hooded figure with a beak stopped me in my tracks.
Inside, they have all sorts of herbs, magickal items, and treasures. The owners also offers custom designs, consultations, and spirit world workings.
My FAVOURITE thing about this place is that it is backed by the non-profit company called The Point ARC, and employs individuals with varying intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities.
Additionally, The Point ARC provides training for employment and social skills, hosts community involvement activities, and offers an adult residential program.
They assist with job placement in multiple surrounding communities through other The Point ARC companies, and in a partnership with over seventy different external businesses.
This type of organization is near and dear to my heart, as I have also worked/volunteered with special needs individuals most of my life.
Above Point Perk Coffee is a mural of Ralph Haile, the beloved bow tie-wearing local known for his big heart and his passion for funding the development of Covington and its neighboring communities throughout many decades.
He was vital in Covington’s riverfront property development and officially organizing the Mainstrasse Village.
Across the street is Braxton Brewing, a company that prides itself on not only welcoming everyone, but protecting their guests’ peace with a fantastic set of social conduct expectations.
They have two other locations in Cincinnati and Fort Mitchell, and I am bummed that they were closed when I visited.
On opposite ends of these shops you will find the Millennium Mosaic Park, and a statue of Covington’s beloved painter and sculpture, Frank Duveneck, holding a photo of his wife in Duveneck Square.
There is a lot of art and architecture to check out around Mutter Gottes and the Central Business District. Read more about it here.
Stop by the Pike Street Art Wall, then see if you can spot the Love the Cov mural or the whimsy nature murals on the exterior of Kerry Automotive.
Search for cartoon-style art by local art collective, The London Police, and their Astro Lad dog series. I found three of their pieces, but only caught a photo of Salute to Mighty Mike Amann on the Variety Room building (below):
You can also follow the Mutter Gottes Neighborhood Association to keep up with all the exciting new things coming soon.
While you are in Covington, be sure to visit the Historic Linden Grove Cemetery & Arboretum, less than a mile from the Pike Street shops.
This circa-1843 cemetery sprawls over nearly 23 acres, and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2001.
Linden Grove Cemetery is a designated Kentucky Historical Marker, and contains a great number of both Union and Confederate graves. Many famous people in Covington’s history are buried here as well.
Be sure to stop by Wunderbar! for a meal before or after visiting Linden Grove.
They have pretzels the size of a skull that are soft on the inside and perfectly crisp outside. Also, their housemade Spundekäs is on point. Spundekäs is similar to the Bavarian Obatzda cheese with onions and herbs, but softer, and more popular in the Mainz and Rheingau areas of Germany.
Wunderbar! has an ecclectic menu of German staples, excellent German beer, and comfy local favourites. Somehow, they seamlessly blend cozy fireplace cabin vibes with an abundance of hippie and Grateful Dead memorabilia. The pretzels were so good that I chose to overlook the latter part.
They also have a fenced in patio!
In the area for a while? Follow me across Main Street and check out Covington’s Mainstrasse German Village, the Licking-Riverside Historic District, to Devou Park and the historic Circus Town of Ludlow, or take a short drive to Newport on the Levee.
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