Fueled in part by European revolutions of the mid-1800s, many Europeans, particularly Germans, emigrated to Covington. At the time, the primary commercial district was on Main Street near Sixth Street, the area now known as Mainstrasse. In 1861, the city established a public market in the center of the street with traffic lanes on either side. Over a century later, a group of businessmen proposed developing the neighborhood into a tourist attraction with eclectic shops, eateries, pubs and festivals. Highlights of the neighborhood include the Carroll Chimes Bell Tower, and the Goose Girl Fountain (featured on its Gateway Mosaic sign). Mainstrasse is best known for its festivals, including Mardi Gras, Maifest, Goettafest, Oktoberfest, and Christmas Festival.
The Westside/Mainstrasse Historic District is roughly bound by the Chesapeake & Ohio elevated tracks on the east, West 6th Street on the north, I-75 & Goebel Park on the west, and Pike Street to the south. The area is significant for its urban residential and commercial architecture from the second half of the 19th century.
Before becoming a part of Covington, the area was once owned and farmed by James Riddle, who also operated a ferry from the end of Main Street. In 1820 Riddle proposed that his land, located between the town of Covington and Willow Run Creek be subdivided into lots to create a new town called Hibernia, Latin word meaning Ireland. However, due to the Panic of 1819, the plan was abandoned. So instead, Riddle deeded the land to the Second Bank of the United States in 1825 (Philadelphia Street gets its name from the location of the banks headquarters). In 1832, the land was annexed by Covington, becoming the town’s first major expansion.
The area was originally platted in 1830, but did not develop until the 1840’s when a large number of German Immigrants came to the Greater Cincinnati Area. By the late 1870’s, the neighborhood was almost completely developed.
Although the Mainstrasse Village is German, its neighborhood once held an Irish flavor as well. From 1935 to 1953, Kern Alyward, a former singer and dancer of vaudeville fame, operated a popular Irish saloon at 530 Main Street. Aylward’s establishment was for many years the gathering spot for the Irish community in Covington. Irish tunes and dances were performed nightly near the bar piano, while outside, the pavement was painted green every St. Patrick’s Day to honor the patron saint of Ireland. Today, 530 Main Street is home to the Cock & Bull Restaurant.
Alyward was a friend of Haven Gillespie, world renowned songwriter of Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and many other ragtime hits of the early 20th century. A native Covingtonian and good customer of Ayward’s Cafe he often enjoyed drinking, telling stories, singing, and dancing with many local patrons.
Resident’s of the westside neighborhood attended a number of nearby churches such as St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Main Street Methodist, Grace Reformed Church, and St. Aloysius Catholic Church. These congregations flourished for nearly a century when by the 1950’s and 1960’s, due to the decline in German and Irish immigration and suburban flight, their memberships declined.
In 1967, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church was demolished to make way for the Internal Revenue Service Building and Interstate 75. In 1985, St. Aloysius was destroyed by fire. A decade later, the Grace Reformed Church held its last services before closing its doors due to declining numbers. Finally, in 2004, Main Street Methodist Church was closed; its building now serves as a shop within the Mainstrasse Village.