"Quirky"

Life in The Cov: A primer on Quirkiness

 

The City of Covington could have celebrated National Economic Development Week earlier this year by bragging about our impressive 2020 numbers with a press release version of a flexing selfie.

But it’s not about us.

So instead we baked cookies, blew up balloons, designed silly-looking trophies, and dropped in National Publishers Clearing House-style on people, places, and events we wanted to thank “for keepin’ it real in The Cov.”

The first-ever Authenti-CITY Awards – and especially the five recipients we selected – were our way of declaring that if you’re looking for a cookie-cutter town filled with strip malls and chain restaurants (you know, Generica), Covington ain’t it.

Yes, we’re 200+ years old and offer big-city benefits. But the main reason you want to live or work here is our odd, fun charm best described as “authentic” and “quirky.”

To explain that mumbo jumbo, we’re providing this primer on The Cov’s personality:

1 - WORDS AND SYMBOLS

  • #LovetheCov is an exuberant hashtag and a statement of loyalty.
  • Volunteers and candidates brag about being “Covmitted.” 
  • The City’s oft-used logo is an anthropomorphic capital “C” whose upward curve morphs into a helping hand (which alternately is made to do everything from giving a “thumbs up” to holding a hammer).
  • “Keep Your Shirt On Covington” is the name of both a local startup and a tongue-in-cheek plea.
  • And “Where Y’all Means All! Since 2003” is the slogan on the banner carried by City Hall department heads in the annual Pride parade. (We’re loud and proud about embracing inclusivity, and we’re slowly shaming our neighbors into passing an expanded Human Rights Ordinance like we adopted almost 20 years ago.)

2 - ROVER AND FRIENDS

  • Dogs annually take over a City pool on the last day of the swim season.
  • Backyard chickens (aka “Hens in the Hood”) are not only legal but also have their own Facebook page. Fresh eggs anyone?
  • Dogs are welcome in many bars (and a brewery’s taproom).
  • A “cat cafĂ©” lets you drink coffee or cocktails surrounded by cute (and available for adoption) felines.
  • And until recently, weed control in a large park was maintained by a herd of goats whose trip to their summer employment was celebrated with a parade akin to the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain – oh, and it once got Covington on CNN.

3 - KEEPING FIT THE WEIRD WAY

Years and years ago, Covington was home to the minor league Covington Blue Sox (if only for a couple of months), and its west side was a sandlot haven until Ike’s bulldozers and a whole lot of dynamite created Interstates 71/75.

These days, we take a more outside-the-box approach to participating in sports and recreation. We like to:

  • Drink beer and throw axes.
  • Fish for rainbow trout in a City lake.
  • Ride mountain bikes on backcountry trails near a haunted old incinerator.
  • Canoe and scull alongside barges and surface-feeding catfish.
  • Join a street hockey league that skates in a rink in a City park.
  • Play badminton in an architect’s parking lot tournament.
  • Play basketball in a giant hole.
  • Shoot high-speed arrows in a neighborhood business district.
  • And run in organized races after chugging locally brewed beer.

Of course, if mainstream baseball and football are more your thing, we got you covered there: Covington has Major League and NFL teams in its front yard. Just cross the Ohio River to see modern-day versions of the Big Red Machine and the Ickey Shuffle.

4 - THEIR OWN WAY

Conventional? Covington food and drink establishments defy it. Amid dozens and dozens of one-of-a-kind places to eat are:

  • A bagel shop that sells out of a Walk-Up Windough.
  • A BBQ joint that smokes its meat in the skinny alley next door.
  • A donut shop that opens at 5 p.m. (that’s a “p,” not an “a”) and serves hot cake donuts out of the fryer if/when display cases run empty of decorated donuts.
  • A burger & chili place whose Bardzilla Challenge was featured on the Food Network’s Ginormous Food series.
  • An all-night grill that features an old-timey “Band Box,” with guest appearance by Barbie. 
  • A taco place whose featured fare is often made with ’roo … as in the pouched marsupial.
  • A tavern that still cooks on a 1939 griddle.
  • An Astro-turfed ’Yard surrounded by shipping containers that serve food.
  • Nine (9!) stops on The B-Line, the northern entryway to the Kentucky bourbon experience.
  • A bakery that serves Omotenashi with its Japanese-themed creations, bodegas that sell quesadillas and tamales to go, a tasty dessert destination centered on cannoli, a revolving restaurant, numerous market-deli-sandwich shops, a weekly farmers market, and …

5 - PRETTY PICTURES

Lots of cities have floodwalls covered with exquisite historical scenes (and ours along the Ohio River are fabulous).

But Covington also has four-story buildings painted by the Brooklyn-based collaborative FAILE, faces of Jimi Hendrix and Andy Warhol, The London Police on the side of a multi-million-dollar townhome at a highly visible intersection, street murals by an artist from Turin (that’s Italy), and paintings and mosaics on overpasses, underpasses, pump houses, planter boxes, buildings, benches, and basically anything that doesn’t move or breathe.

We have so many public paintings and statues that web sites, pamphlets, and brochures aren’t enough to keep up with them.

6 - FUNCTIONING FOSSILS

We like to rehab, refurbish, repurpose, resurrect, reincarnate and recycle stuff.

Big stuff.

Like historic buildings.

Covington turned 200 in 2015, so we have lots of them. And they’re exquisite.

Architecture students would go wild here studying our encyclopedia of styles: Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, German Gothic to name just a few. We actually have our own form, called Covington Townhouse (summary: front room the width of the house, with the porch and door starting halfway down the side).

The CW is that they don’t make buildings like they used to. In Covington, we have a corollary that is equally true: Chances are, any building you see isn’t what it used to be.

The (iconic) Carnegie multidisciplinary arts venue used to be a library. The Madison Event Center used to be Woolworth’s. Hotel Covington used to be Coppin’s Department Store. The soon-to-be addition to Hotel Covington used to be a YMCA. The new county complex used to be Bavarian Brewery. Braxton Brewing Co. used to be Sears. The Boone Block (and its $500,000 townhomes) was a liquor store. The Center for Great Neighborhoods was a lumber mill. Governors Point Condos used to be Booth Memorial Hospital. La Salette Gardens Apartments (for seniors) used to be a high school. The Warehouse at SIDIS meeting space used to be a German dance hall. And … we could go on and on and on.

On a side note, the wrought-iron fences and gates surrounding older homes downtown? They were manufactured by Stewart Iron Works, the former Covington company that made housings for Tommy Guns in the Prohibition era, tank armor for World War II battlefields, “non-sawable” bars for the cells at Alcatraz Prison, and gates for the White House and the Panama Canal.

7 - GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

Like most cities, Covington honors its historical figures, and we’re certainly proud of Frank Duveneck, John Roebling, and Daniel Carter Beard. But we surge past the famous to feature the not-so-famous and the downright infamous.

We have a popular watering hole named after a mediocre pitcher with a cool nickname who more than a century ago threw a gem of a game for a professional team that lasted about two months.

Oh, and then there’s the park named after an abrasive Covington gubernatorial candidate who killed a rival in a shoot-out in 1895 (the rival was upset about a published article calling him “Gonorrhea John”) and then was himself shot by an assassin five years later just a few days after being elected governor. The fact that William Goebel lingered long enough to be sworn in on his deathbed as the state’s elected leader makes him the only governor in the nation to ever be assassinated.

8 - COPYCATS

When it comes to iconic landmarks, we don’t mind copying others (in a big way) … or being copied ourselves (in an even bigger way). 

  • Our Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption was inspired by Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (before the fire, of course), and its interior by the Abbey Church of St. Denis.
  • The Roebling Suspension Bridge and the later-built Brooklyn Bridge are linked by their creator and design in an eternal chicken-and-egg debate (and Roebling himself, btw, is celebrated with a riverside statue and a combination coffee shop and bookstore that actually sits in Roebling’s old office).
  • The Gothic-style Carroll Chimes (with its mechanical puppet show depicting the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin) is what’s called a “glockenspiel,” a feature that dots town squares in German villages.
  • Likewise, the Goose Girl Fountain was inspired by the Brothers Grimm.

And then – in the hill overlooking Interstate 75 – is the oft-forgotten Garden of Hope, a scaled-version replica of the tomb of Jesus inspired by a trip to the Holy Land, complete with a large stone from the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and a carpenter’s shop whose tools were donated by an Israeli prime minister.

9 - ONE OF A KIND

Like to shop? Among retailers in The Cov:

  • A fabulous (faux) furs place whose creations adorn some of the most famous figures in the world.
  • An impossible-to-define (“magic” just seems too pedestrian and almost insulting) shop that provides “complete thaumaturgic and sibylline services for select clients,” not to mention “a deluxe line of fully custom magical solutions.” 
  • A retail and bottle shop offering a carefully curated collection of rare and vintage bottles of “dusty” spirits.
  • A 94-year-old hardware and household needs store whose narrow quarters are jammed and slammed with everything sold in those categories over many, many decades, plus all the toys you used to play with.
  • A 163-year-old landmark of a jewelry store whose Art Deco rings and vintage watch pieces take you back in time.
  • A curated shop specializing in mid-century modern.
  • A records and oddities shop that sells everything from rare bootleg vinyl to bat’s eye root to a “mummified cat for your cabinet of curiosities.”

10 - MISCELLANEOUS ODDITIES

And then, if you’re really looking for the weird, Covington has a museum whose “mascots” include a two-headed calf and a shrunken head … a spaceship-shaped Futuro Home (apparently one of only 100 in the country) ... a “Cinema in the Cemetery” feature that takes other cities’ “movie night in the park” attraction to a whole ’nother (spookier) level … and a memorial grove that resembles Roman ruins.

We also have 32 carved stone gargoyles and 26 chimeras that sit on top of the world-renowned Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption. If you really want to be freaked out, track down pictures and carefully study the grotesque features of their faces.

Just remember that no matter what time of day or night it is, and that no matter where you are in The Cov, they’re always watching.