Park Hills Historic District
The Park Hills Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. Portions of the content of this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2015, The Gombach Group.
The Park Hills Historic District consists of a mid-nineteenth- to mid-twentieth century largely residential concentration of 243 acres located northwest of the Dixie Highway (U.S. Routes 25, 42, and 127) within the city of Park Hills, in Kenton County, Kentucky.
Park Hills stands as a nearly pristine early twentieth-century residential suburb laid out by Covington land speculators whose development was guided by community land-use development restrictions and design review, including cost and building size guidelines, setback requirements, and use and building restrictions. Park Hills follows the pattern of expansion of northern Kentucky's development from the lowlands of the Ohio River basin to the flood-free uplands south of the original settlements; further, the district contains a concentration of formally-designed and vernacular domestic architecture dating from the early twentieth century into the 1950s.
The Park Hills Historic District is significant for its reflection of the pattern of community planning and development in northern Kentucky beginning in the 1920s. It is a stereotypical, Picturesque planned residential suburb, laid out with land use, building, cost-of-construction, and utility restrictions, and setback requirements, and actively marketed by its developers beginning in 1924. "The Picturesque suburb [of which Park Hills is an example] with its plat of curvilinear streets and roads, the product of the Romantic landscape movement, became the means by which upper income city dwellers sought to satisfy their aspiration for a suburban home within commuting distance of the city." The district is also consists of a dense concentration of properties representing a variety of the architectural styles popular during the period of 1924-1957. The estimated date of construction of the most recently-constructed of the district's historic buildings (typified by the Ranch-style houses at 1218 and 1154 Breckenridge Drive), dates from 1957.
While streetcar usage nationally peaked in 1923—the year before the formal platting of Park Hills—and declined thereafter, the usage of the streetcar was alive and well in the suburban hills south of Covington for nearly two more decades. The Green Line, discussed in more detail below, traversed the new community as it made its way south from Covington to Ft. Wright, irrefutably contributed in an intimate fashion to the growth and development of Park Hills throughout its first decades.
With the arrival of the automobile early in the twentieth century personalized travel and commuting became a reality. Henry Ford's Model-T debuted in 1908, and "the rapid adoption of the mass-produced automobile by Americans led to the creation of the automobile-oriented suburb of single-family houses on spacious lots that has become the quintessential American landscape of the twentieth century." Park Hills, with its street after street of 1920s and 1930s homes with attached and basement garages, along with detached garages at the end of driveways, clearly reflects the growth of the early automobile suburb.
The properties in the Park Hills Historic District represent a variety of styles of design, spanning the decades which correspond to the Period of Significance. Some buildings reflect vernacular adaptations of formal styles and others were erected without reference to any particular architectural style. Some of these vernacular properties are unadorned cottages and other representatives of the 1920s "small house" movement, while others borrow minimally from the form and finish of more formally-designed domestic architecture, such as the stylized half-timbered finishes which hint at the Tudor Revival style but which are applied to the pediment of a porch of an otherwise undistinguished cottage. While the work of no specific architect has been identified in Park Hills, the sophistication of design in many of the homes, notable those along Park Drive, Cleveland Avenue, and Emerson Road, is indicative of the obvious formal training of their designers.
Bungalows were erected throughout the district in the 1920s and 1930s, typically of brick construction, with a laterally-oriented gable roof, a dormer on the facade, and a recessed front porch.
By the 1920s the popularity of the Craftsman style was in full bloom. Among the strongest influences of this style was the English Arts-and-Crafts movement. At the same time, the "small house" movement developed—"small" being defined as a house of six or fewer rooms—and "alliances formed among architects, real estate developers, builders, social reformers, manufacturers, and public officials to encourage home ownership, standardized home building practices, and neighborhood improvements."
Appearing concomitant with Bungalows and Craftsman cottages, American Foursquares became the most ubiquitous house type built in America in the two decades after World War One. More of a house form than an architectural style, Foursquares typically exhibit a hipped- or pyramidal-roofed, blocky form, a full front porch, and dormers on the slopes of the roofs. In the Park Hills Historic District, Foursquares are seen both in modest form and in houses of a more pretentious scale and level of design sophistication.
Extending into the mid-1950s, the Park Hills Historic District embraces the earliest years of the popularity of the Ranch style. A modern mode born in California in the 1930s, the Ranch style reached its pinnacle of popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. Incorporating an elongated single-story form with sparse detailing and either hipped or side-gable roofs, the appearance of the Ranch style in the Park Hills Historic District marks the waning of the district's period of significance
† David L. Taylor, Taylor & Taylor Associates, Inc., Park Hills Historic District, Kenton County, Kentucky, nomination document, 2007, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.