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By Michael Monks
Special to KyForward
A massive building on the corner of Fifth and Garrard streets in Covington in Northern Kentucky could become a home again. The structure has the same striking Victorian architectural detail as the homes surrounding it in the Licking Riverside Historic District, except at 423-525 Garrard Street, you might not notice those details right away. That’s because the former mansion was turned into a nursing home and additions were put on the front and back of the house in the 1960s, concealing some of its most masterful traits.
The sprawling Queen Anne-style home has 25 rooms throughout its three stories. Its next owner will have an ambitious renovation project but with a listing price of $224,900, it could be the housing opportunity of a lifetime. Some of its previous residents have been prominent Kentuckians.
Built in 1901 by attorney James W. Bryan and his wife, Virginia, it was sold in 1903 to a James Thompson who then sold the home 16 years later to Col. Matt J. Winn, who was president of the Latonia Jockey Club in Covington. Winn was known as “Mr. Kentucky Derby.” He is largely responsible for creating the luster that surrounds “the most exciting 2 minutes in sports,” the Kentucky Derby, when he helped rescue Churchill Downs in Louisville from financial ruin in the early 1900s.
Prior to his success in Louisville, Winn led the Latonia Jockey Club for 10 years, bringing the track to the height of its importance in the horse racing world. After leaving Covington, Winn sold the mansion to Maurice Galvin, who succeeded Winn as president at the Latonia track.
Galvin was a prominent Republican leader in town and served as the Kenton County commonwealth’s attorney and also as counsel or director for Stewart Iron Works, WCKY radio, Union Light, Heat & Power Co., the Green Line public transit company, the C & O Railroad, the Deerfield Printing Co., the Louisville Gravure Co., Cincinnati’s Modern Sales Co., and the Kentucky Post. When he died in 1940, a friend is quoted as saying that Galvin “was considered one of the men to see when Republican or Democratic governors wanted something done,” and that Galvin “had a wider influence than any man in Kentucky.”
The legacy left behind by these two horse racing men includes the mansion on Garrard Street. In spite of the 1960s addition, potential for one of the grandest homes in Covington remains. The building’s three stories feature a full third floor within the roof and a dormer space and a beautiful facade waiting to be revealed when the front addition is removed. It has a rounded corner that creates unique spaces on the interior. Though most of the architectural details inside have been removed, including what would have been a grand center staircase, several remain, including a curved built-in china cabinet, the original back staircase, a cedar closet, marble vanities, multiple fireplaces, and curved radiators.
Michael Monks is editor and publisher of The River City News, where this story first appeared. It is reprinted with permission.
The property is represented by Huff Realty agent Rebecca Weber, who contributed to this report.