Goebel Park is located on the west end of 6th street, with Philadelphia Street on the east and Interstate 75 bordering on the west. It is named in honor of William Goebel, who was assassinated just four days after being declared Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 1900.
During the late 19th and early 20th century, changing shopping practices by the public quickly changed with the introduction of grocery stores. Covington’s market houses were no longer profitable, and these businesses were closed. In 1906, the Covington Park Board was established, and given authority to buy these properties so to convert them into city parks.
The market houses at the Public Square, and on Eleventh Street, between Greenup and Scott, known as Withers Park, became the first green spaces within the city. By 1907, the 6th Street Park, now a part of George Steinford Park, was established to replace the old market house located there. The board would also create a park on a 130 foot lot at Front Street, at the corner of today’s Riverside Drive and Garrard Street. Since 1913, it has been known as George Rogers Clark Park.
During this period various landowners offered to sell or donate their property to the Covington Park Board. For instance, Devou Park was established in 1910 when the Devou family donated 500 acres of property to the City of Covington for park purposes. While Arthur Goebel, the brother of assassinated governor, William Goebel, on the other hand, sold his 15 acre site on the Westside of Covington, to the park board for $25,000.
In March 1910, Engineer Willard L. Glazier laid out the plans to build Goebel Park which included a playground, gravel walking paths and a small comfort station. By 1913, a new shelter house was added to the grounds which for many years the students of nearby Third District School used as a gymnasium during the school year. By the 1920’s, wadding pools, for girls and boys were built on the park property.
Baseball and football fields located near Willow Run Creek had made Goebel Park a very popular recreational stop. One athletic field known as Covington Ballpark, now memorialized on Covington’s flood wall, produced some of the best high school, amateur, & semipro baseball and softball teams to come out of the Greater Cincinnati Region in the early half of the 20th century.
By the late 1950’s the area was in decline. The construction of Interstate 75 through Willow Run had demolished all the ballparks and much of the park property. Squeezed between the 5th street exit ramp of I-75 and Philadelphia, Goebel Park had lost much of its greenspace, and was surrounded by concrete. By 1970, vandalism had wrecked the area, leaving the park in a deplorable condition.
The creation of Main Strasse Village in the 1970s brought new life to Goebel Park. The park, which bordered the village, received a major renovation. One of the best known landmarks in Covington, the Carroll Chimes Bell Tower, locally known as the Pied Piper Tower, was constructed on Philadelphia Street at the foot of 6th. A large German Gothic shelter house was also constructed on the north side of the carillon. On the south side of the carillon, an old home was remodeled into offices for the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau and for a welcome center. Other improvements included new sidewalks and landscaping on both sides of 6th Street.
Today, Goebel Park is best known for its iconic German-style glockenspiel. It still offers a public pool, picnic shelters, a gazebo, a playground, a grill, and walking trails connecting the park property to Kenny Shields Park at W. 9th and Philadelphia St.
The latest effort to improve Covington’s Goebel Park has been funded through a $5,000 Creative Community Grant from the Center for Great Neighborhoods. The project calls for the use of seven to 13 female goats to help clear invasive plants that have overgrown the lower portion of the park and woods nearby. Organizers believe the goats can be used to engage and educate the community about the benefits of animal husbandry, farming and good land management practices.