Holmes High School

Covington High School was the first public high school in the commonwealth of Kentucky, as well as the first coeducational institution in the state.  More than 150 years later, Holmes High School continues to represent the city of Covington’s commitment to public education.

Founded as Central High School in 1853, the first student body was only 20 students.  The school was located at 11th and Scott Streets, the Reverend Asa Drury started the first secondary classes at the school.  In 1872, it moved to a new 12 room building at 12th and Russell Streets and was renamed the Covington High School. By 1915, that school was overcrowded, and the need for a new one became evident.

Immediately south of the Austinburg neighborhood of Covington were located three former large estates owned by Robert Wallace Jr., Eugene Levassor, and Daniel Henry Holmes, successful merchants of the mid to late 19th century.

In 1867, nestled between the Wallace and Levassor Estates, Daniel  Henry Holmes  had constructed a 32-room redbrick English-Gothic “castle,” known as Holmesdale. After Holmes’ death in 1898, the family left for New Orleans, and later sold the estate to the Covington Board of Education in 1915.

The new school opened in January 1919 with 40 rooms, a gymnasium, and a student body numbering 500.  In 1927, a new junior high school was added to the campus.  The mansion served as the Covington Holmes High School until 1936, when the structure was razed and a new high school was constructed on the site.

From 1915 to 1966, Holmes High School only served white students.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended segregation in schools so in 1967, the Lincoln-Grant School on Greenup Street, which had served the African American community of Covington, since 1931, was closed, and all remaining students were transferred to Holmes.

Covington Holmes Junior/Senior High School and five other buildings now occupy the former estate grounds as part of the Holmes High School campus.  It is a seven-year school, educating students from grades 6 through 12.  The school offers a wide range of programs, including the International Baccalaureate, and the Advanced Placement programs. Its distinguished graduates include the mathematician Carl Faith, nuclear scientist Dick Lewis, Staples CEO Ron Sargent, and Major League Baseball umpire Randy Marsh.

In sports, Holmes basketball is considered one of the best high school boys basketball programs in Northern Kentucky history with over 20 appearances in the Kentucky state basketball tournament.  In 1978, in one of the most controversial championship games in tournament history, the Holmes Bulldogs were defeated by Shelby County High School in overtime, 68-66, by what many Holmes fans claimed was a missed goal-tending call which sent the game into an unnecessary overtime.

In 2009, the schools basketball team finally won its first state basketball championship by defeating Louisville Central High School at Lexington’s Rupp Arena.

Today, Holmes High School is still the flagship school of Covington Independent Schools.

This site is on the Historic Tour. Not open to the public

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