During my youth, Covington, KY, the city I was raised, endured a face lift much like many cities go through. The stables that used house horses at the end of Scott Street next to the Suspension Bridge have given way to the River Center buildings and the used car lot at the beginning of Madison streets has moved so that Northern Kentucky could have parking for its own convention center. Even though Covington, KY has changed its skyline to attract corporate revenue, the city has not abandoned its old world charm. In 1988, Covington adorned its historic Riverside Drive with several statues that commemorated those who have crossed the shores of the Ohio River in the past. Statues depicting John Roebling, designer of the first suspension bridge that connects Covington to Cincinnati and Simon Kenton, pioneer explorer and name sake of Kenton county, in which Covington lies, are just a few of the statues that add to Riverside Drive’s historic aroma. Among these life-size representations of historic Northern Kentucky figures, the statue of James Bradley, a former slave who did who followed his life-long dream to become educated, is one of the most astonishing.
James Bradley started his life as a child in Africa. Early in his life, young James was stolen from his family and brought to the Unites States. Young James arrived in South Carolina and immediately sold to a slave handler who brought him to Pendleton County. Within several months, young James was sold to Mr. Bradley, which whom James gets his surname.
James grew up on the plantation in Pendleton County, KY and by the age of eighteen James managed the plantation. James’ master decided to move his family and the plantation to Arkansas and after the move; James sought out to purchase his freedom. James worked for his master during the day and at night worked for himself, often only able to muster a few hours of sleep during the night. After the death of his master, it took James over five years of working over time, to save seven hundred dollars and purchase his freedom. Once a free man, James crossed the Ohio River at the banks of Covington, KY. It was not too long after he taught himself how to read that James was admitted into Lane Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. Being the first African American student admitted to Lane Seminary, James was instrumental in aiding the abolitionists during the infamous Lane Debates of 1834. After the rebellion during the same year, James attended The Sheffield Institute for one year, but nothing is known of James Bradley after that.
The James Bradley Statue, created by George Danhires, is made of bronze and has the dimensions of 49″x29″x53″ with a base of 28″x8’x17″. The statue is placed on an actual park bench over looking the Ohio River on Riverside Drive in Covington, KY. Tourists and residents alike have taken pictures of themselves reading along side of Mr. Bradley or sitting on the park bench next to him. The pages that are in Mr. Bradley’s open book are blank, but they do not symbolize the emptiness of his life, but reinforce that fact that life is like an open book waiting for the written word.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Slavery to Freedom Museum (1807 -).
This brick townhouse, fashioned in Georgian and Federal styles, is located in Washington, KY. In 1833, when owned by Marshall Key, nephew to Chief Justice John Marshall and brother to Col. Thomas Marshall who served as a Staff Officer under George Washington, his daughter became the pupil of Harriet Beecher (Stowe) (1811-1896), author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Upon a visit, Beecher (Stowe) received the inspiration for the book’s characters, “Uncle Tom” and a “Topsy”. Topsy’s real name was Jane who later married Isham Anderson. Behind the museum is a small brick structure, known as an “Indian Fort.” The Fort helped settlers ward off Indians who often crossed the Ohio River at nearby Maysville. Included in this museum are original mantels, woodworking, floor, doors, slavery artifacts, period furnishings, slave leg irons and Civil War artifacts. This museum is included on the “Underground Railroad Tours.”
Master planned as an urban redevelopment that encompassed all aspects of private and public cooperation, RiverCenter was officially proposed to the city of Covington in 1988. Opening May 1990, RiverCenter composed of an eleven acre complex which included an eighteen story office building, a two-hundred and thirty roomed Embassy Suites hotel and Covington Landing which had two floating facilities that housed restaurants, shops, entertainment activities and riverboat excursions. At the time, Covington Landing was deemed the largest floating entertainment facility on a US inland waterway. Corporex Companies Inc of Ft. Wright was commissioned to develop the on land portion of RiverCenter. BnW was commissioned to develop the floating portion. North/south oriented, RiverCenter is bound by Court St., Second St., Madison St., and the Ohio River. Champion Ice Co. building, which was on the National Register of Historic Buildings, was demolished in to make way.