Covington, KY in 1939 by John Vachon (Part 1)

Inspired in part by cincyhisotoryluvr’s blog Digging Cincinnati History and using similar research techniques, I wanted to start some of my own. Here you’ll find the first of which I hope are entertaining and informative posts that show us what’s survived and what has not.

The Library of Congress is a treasure trove of images from yesteryear.  Exactly the kind we like here at PE.  They are the kind that document our built environment in journalistic banality but have an exquisite beauty all their own for the way they captured what has been lost and the mystery they provide.

Recently, I stumbled across three images that were new to me.  The images were taken by John Vachon while he worked as a photographer for Farm Security Administration and are probably some of the more pedestrian examples of his work.  His “Negro boy near Cincinnati” was much more remarkable as was the haunting “Worker at carbon black plant, Sunray, Texas” below.

Worker at carbon black plant, Sunray, Texas”

But back to those Covington photographs.  Unfortunately, Vachon’s notes (at least as they are preserved by the LOC) are inconclusive as to exactly where the photographs are taken.  This is where our sleuthing comes to bear.  This was the first that jumped out to me.  We found this was taken of 129 Park Place.

129 Park Place, Covington, KY.  September 1929,  LOC.

What was our clue?  Notice the little comic book style painted sign in the lower left hand corner and take a closer look.

Detail of painted sign.
I thought this was a pretty safe bet that someone wanted the reader to know that the Kenton Distributing Company had a front door entrance around the corner from this parking lot (which sat beside a filling station in 1939.) 

Above, the 1938 Covington City Guide tells us this business was located at 129 Park pl.  This already seems believable enough but let’s get more confirmation.  It’s helpful if we can find a surviving structure somewhere in the frame…and we did!

1939 detail of building in background
2013 detail of building in background.

This building survives today at the corner of Greenup Street and Sanford Alley.  It currently houses Blinkers Tavern.  Below is the Google Streetview from roughly the same vantage point in 1939 and 2008 April, 2013.


If you look very closely you can see the fire hydrant has either remained in the same place (Or moved slightly. What’s that strange pipe in the sidewalk?)  Incidentally, the building beyond the expanded modern day parking lot was built in the 1970’s as a Burger Chef restaurant. A definite architectural upgrade.

I really would like to see the front of the intact 129 Park Place.  If you find it before I do let me know.


One Response to Covington, KY in 1939 by John Vachon (Part 1)

  1. Anonymous says:

    pretty sweet to see this part of Covington and knowing what was there. i like those cars in the old pic.


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