High School (also known as Central High School) was established by the
City of Covington in 1853. Asa Drury, a former professor at the Western
Baptist Theological Institute, was hired as the first principal. On
January 8, 1853, Covington High School opened its doors for the first
time in the district elementary school building at 11th and Scott Streets.
The school enrolled twenty students in this inaugural year.
Covington High School grew quickly, and by 1856, enrolled 106 pupils.
In 1869, the first graduate, Miss Amelia S. Orr, received her diploma.
Increased enrollment resulted in the need of a new building. Property
at the corner of 12th and Russell was acquired and construction began.
The cornerstone of the twelve-classroom, three-story, brick building
was set in place on October 25, 1872 with appropriate Masonic ceremonies.
The number of faculty increased to five and enrollment reached 172 in
Covington High School continued to advance. In 1896, the school was
accredited by the University of Kentucky. Despite this success, the
high school program was facing a serious challenge. The number of pupils
wishing to attend secondary classes was growing quickly, and the old
building was close to capacity.
1915, the school board placed a bond issue on the Covington ballot in
the hope of raising funds for the construction of a new high school
building. The issue failed. Overcrowding became progressively worse.
In January 1916, enrollment at the high school had reached 471 (the
building’s capacity was 400). That year, another bond issue ($165,000)
was placed on the ballot. This time, the issue passed by 186 votes.
Several sites for the new high school were considered. One site was
in Devou Park. This site was favored by the people of the west end who
wanted to keep the high school near their neighborhood. The other site,
which was eventually chosen, was the Homesdale property near Latonia.
The cornerstone of the new building was laid on November 27, 1916. The
new high school, which was named Holmes High School, was occupied in
The construction of the new high school left the old building at 12th
and Russell vacant. The school board made a decision to remodel the
building for use as a junior high school. The building was officially
opened for use as a junior high in 1919. The school was named John J.
Carlisle Junior High School. Classes continued to be held in this building
until a new John G. Carlisle Elementary and Junior High School building
was constructed in 1937. The old building was then demolished.
Mills, Howard H., “History of Education in Covington, Kentucky.”
(University of Kentucky Masters Thesis 1929); Covington Journal, October
26, 1872, p. 3; Kentucky Post, November 3, 1915, p. 4, November 16,
1915, p. 1, January 27, 1916, p.1, November 20, 1916, p. 1, January
14, 1919, p. 1 and May 17, 1919, p. 2,