Bellevue City Hall is located at 616 Poplar Street, Bellevue, KY 41073; phone: 859-431-8888.
The City of Bellevue, along with the neighboring communities of Newport and Southgate, was originally part of the vast land holdings of the James Taylor family of Caroline County, Virginia. Bellevue itself was founded in the post-Civil War era by Taylor descendants residing in Newport. The "New Town", whose birth was officially announced in the May 28, 1866 edition of the Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, was named for Gen. James Taylor's splendid Greek Revival mansion on East Third Street in Newport. Incorporation would follow four years later.
The "Original Plan" of Bellevue was confined to a small area in what is now the extreme northwest corner of the city, adjacent to the Ohio River. At an unspecified date prior to its incorporation, several small plats to the east and south including the Berry, Seiter, Williamson and Timberlake Additions were annexed. The development of the city during its first decade (c. 1866-1875) was thus limited to the area west of Washington Ave. This growth was quite sparse, and few early buildings have survived.
Nor would development accelerate over the next ten years. From 1875 to 1884, not more than 25 houses were built in Bellevue "owing to a stagnant condition caused by limited powers possessed by the new town." (Kentucky State Journal, November 13, 1891.) Unable to annex additional land, or to provide basic services in the way of fire protection or a reliable water supply, the town's growth was hampered.
This situation was alleviated in 1884 when Bellevue became chartered as a fourth-class city. The immediate result was a dramatic increase in the city's land area, as the vast Harris Heirs' Addition (from Washington Ave. east to O'Fallon) was annexed to the city. Housing construction proceeded at a rapid pace, aided by local building and loan Bellevue was developed after the Great Depression. Like other Northern Kentucky communities, the city of Bellevue was platted on a grid. Uniform blocks most with dividing alleys and narrow streets and lots are the norm. Because of this tight scale, there are no divided streets and open space is rare. The scale of most buildings in Bellevue is modest. Most are one to three stories in height, with the majority of residences being two or two and a half stories tall. Unlike Newport and Covington, where brick was the material of choice, frame buildings predominate in Bellevue. However, brick was favored for commercial structures as well as the majority of the city's most stylish residences.
Diversity is the hallmark of historic Bellevue. Since the city's development began along the Ohio River and proceeded in a general southeasterly direction, most of its city's oldest structures are concentrated in the northwest corner of the city. But since this development was a gradual rather than a uniform process, most blocks contain a variety of large and small structures built over a 20 or 30 year period.
The periods of significance for both Bellevue districts are roughly equivalent, encompassing several decades of the city's development. The period of significance for the Taylor's Daughters district begins c. 1868, the approximate construction date of its oldest extant structures. Because of extensive redevelopment in the Fairfield Avenue District (which destroyed most of its early buildings) its period of significance begins c. 1880. Since the most recent contributing buildings in both districts were built in 1933, that year was chosen as the cut-off date.
As in other Northern Kentucky historic districts, a continuum of historic styles can be found in central Bellevue. Favored styles include the Italianate, Victorian Vernacular L-Plan or T-Plan, Queen Anne, Foursquare, and Bungalow. Also represented in lesser numbers are the Stick/Eastlake, Colonial Revival, and Homestead. In the city's business district many examples of the Turn of the Century Commercial can be found, as well as utilitarian, i.e. functional structures.