In 1845, James Taylor Eubank purchased a portion of what today encompasses
Devou Park. Shortly thereafter, he began constructing a substantial brick
Federal Style farmhouse on the property. In 1860s, the home was purchased
by William P. Devou.
The home was architecturally transformed by the Devou Family. Beginning
in the 1880s, a stone addition was constructed on the front of the building.
Also, a large wooden veranda was added to the back of the home. The Devou
Family called the home “Hillcrest,” because of its location
high on a knob.
Devou Family donated their property to the City of Covington for use as
a park in 1910. At this time, Charles P. Devou reserved the right to live
in the home until his death. Charles held the position of superintendent
of the park from 1911 until shortly before his death in 1922.
The home continued to be occupied by various families until 1943. In that
year, a fire destroyed much of the home’s roof and the Victoria
verandas. The home was not completely repaired until 1948, when a new
roof was constructed (the verandas were not re-built at this time).
In 1949, the collection of William Behringer was donated to the City of
Covington for use in a museum. Behringer (1884-1948) was a native of West
Covington. Through extensive travel, he amassed a large collection of
curiosities and memorabilia. A large portion of the collection consisted
of mounted animal specimens. Covington officials decided at this time
to create a museum in the Devou home to house the collection. The museum
was officially named the William Behringer Memorial Museum and began operation
on July 4, 1950. On the next day, the old Greenline streetcar “Kentucky”
was delivered to the ground following its last run.
first curator of the museum was Ellis Crawford (1905-1972). Crawford labored
to expand the museum’s collection. Crawford, an archaeologist, acquired
many specimens at Big Bone Lick in Boone County for the museum. It was
during Crawford’s administration that the museum began preserving
the history of the Northern Kentucky region. At the time of Crawford’s
retirement in 1970, the City of Covington officially changed the name
of the museum to the Behringer-Crawford Museum.
Ray Tanner became the curator of the museum in 1972. The economic slump
of the 1970’s hit the museum hard. In 1978, the Covington City Commission
eliminated the position of curator. The old Devou house needed a number
of costly upgrades to make the building safe for public use.
In 1979, the first board of trustees was appointed by the city. The board
toured the deteriorating house and studied a report compiled by Greg Harper,
a local University of Cincinnati Museum Science major. The first board
members were: Mike Averdick, associate Director of the Kenton County Public
Library; Melinda Auge, an interior designer; Dr. Daniel Beatie, Associate
Professor of History at Thomas More College; Brady Black, former Editor
of the Cincinnati Enquirer; Ann Giroux, wife of the Thomas More College
president; Dr. Raymond Singh, Associate Professor of Geology at Northern
Kentucky University; Betty Shinkle, of the Baker Hunt Foundation and Charles
Volpenheim, Covington Parks and Recreation Director.
of the first actions of the new board was to name Greg Harper as the director
of the museum. Under Harper’s guidance, the Behringer-Crawford Museum
took on new life. Programs for children and adults were created and a
number of unique activities were sponsored. One of the most popular programs
was a series of archaeological digs for children.
The Devou Home was restored in the 1980s. Work included the reconstruction
of the 1880s verandas and a replacement roof. The restoration plans were
designed by architect William C. Hub. Funding for the project was provided
by the William P. Devou Trust, the Northern Kentucky Area Development
District, the United States Department of Energy and several other local
Museum exhibits and programs have continued to expand under the leadership
of the current director, Laurie Risch, who assumed this position in 1993.
In 2001, work began on a major addition to the museum complex. The project,
costing $2.6 million, doubled the size of the museum’s exhibit space,
provided an indoor space for the Kentucky streetcar and created a permanent
archival storage area.
Behringer-Crawford Museum News/Courier, Summer 1983, William P. Devou
House, Kentucky Historic Resources Inventory Form (Kenton Co. Public Library
Local History File), Kentucky Times-Star, September 9, 1949, p. 1a; Kentucky
Post, November 10, 1978, p. 11k, September 15, 1979, November 26, 1979,
p. 4k; Crawford, Ellis C. Paper Read to the Christopher Gist Historical
Society, July 28, 1953, Papers of the Christopher Gist Historical Society,
Vol. 5, pp. 9-13.