Old Seminary Square
Baptists in Ohio and Kentucky established the Western Baptist Theological Seminary in 1839 to train young men for the ministry. Much of the western United States in the 1830s and 1840s was developing, and Cincinnati, which was centrally located in the western states, offered good transportation facilities.
As the population grew, members of the Baptist faith were hampered by a lack of well-trained ministers to spread the gospel. Baptist elders in the east formed a committee to find a spot to build a seminary to teach young men for the ministry.
The committee eventually decided on a site just south of the City of Covington, Kentucky. In 1835, they purchased nearly 350 acres of ground. Soon thereafter, The Baptists received a charter from the Commonwealth of Kentucky to establish the institute in 1840.
The board of trustees chose 12 acres on the highest point of the property for the campus of the institute. This area is roughly bounded by Madison, Russell, 11th and Robbins Streets today.
In order to pay for its construction and pay for teachers, the board sold the rest of the land in lots. Between 1839 and 1841 over 23 acres of property were sold at auction. Three buildings constituted the Western Baptist Theological Institute. The largest structure being the classroom and dormitory building.
The trustees also approved the construction of a 22-acre cemetery on the institute’s property. This cemetery evolved into Linden Grove Cemetery.
In September 1845, the first classes at the Western Baptist Theological Institute were conducted. The institute offered a two-year program in Theology and a classical program for those who were not yet ready for college level work. The Reverend Asa Drury (1802-1870) served as the schools first superintendent.
The institute was established to serve western Baptist, both those from the north and the south. The issue of slavery divided them. Many Kentucky Baptists left the school due to the faculty’s antislavery support.
In 1855, the board decided to close the Western Baptist Theological Institute, and the property was sold in lots. Old Seminary Square began its life at the location of the Western Baptist Theological Institute. The subdivision developed, and by the late nineteenth century the neighborhood had become a fashionable neighborhood to live in. Henry Farny, noted illustrator and painter of the American West, lived on Banklick Street from 1890 until his death in 1916.
Over time, it became an inner-city neighborhood and, like most of these areas, Old Seminary Square suffered through a period of decline in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
A dedicated group of urban preservationists re-discovered the neighborhood in the late 1970s. Basically unaltered by the hands of time, many of its historic homes were rescued from blight and turned into showcases of historic preservation.
Today, this neighborhood still retains the character of an affluent and prosperous nineteenth century urban community.