Riverside Drive Statue Tour
These bronze statues of figures from Kentucky history are located along Riverside Drive in Covington’s Historic Licking Riverside neighborhood. As the statue plaque explains, these characters’ “fortunes parallel the Ohio River.” Starting at the foot of the Roebling Bridge, stroll along the riverfront to the confluence of the Licking River with the Ohio. A short walk through the neighborhood and past gorgeous historic mansions will take you to a bonus statue next to the home of the founder of the Boy Scouts of America.
Enjoy the tour!
John A. Roebling
Born in Prussia in 1806, Roebling’s interest in building suspension bridges brought him to America as a young man. He was hired to build what was then called the Covington-Cincinnati Bridge, with the goal of creating the world’s longest suspension bridge. Work began in 1856 but halted in 1858, due to a poor economy. The defense needs of the Civil War led investors to pay for the completion of the bridge in 1866.
The bridge had been hotly opposed by ferry operators and the first day the bridge opened to traffic was bitterly cold, with the icy river impassable by ferry. The 1,057 ft. long bridge had 166,000 people cross it in its first two days of operation.
Roebling’s company was hired to build the Brooklyn Bridge, which was a wider, two-tier version of the Covington-Cincinnati Bridge. While surveying the centerline of the Brooklyn Bridge, Roebling’s foot was injured, leading to amputation of some of his toes. He developed tetanus from the injury and died 16 days after the accident. His son, Washington Roebling, completed the Brooklyn Bridge.
Our bridge was renamed the John A. Roebling Bridge in 1982. It has also earned the nicknames “singing bridge” and “humming bridge”, because of the sound that cars make as they drive across the metal mesh surface. It was first painted blue in 1896.
This statue of Mr. Roebling depicts him holding an engineer's scale as he shows off the bridge behind him.
Standing in the charming George Rogers Clark Park, this statue depicts Simon Kenton, the namesake of the county in which Covington is located. Kenton was a famous frontiersman and soldier, serving in the Revolutionary War, the Northwest Indian War and the War of 1812. In 1777, he saved the life of his friend, Daniel Boone.
Captain Mary B. Greene
Mary’s husband was Captain Gordon Greene, who piloted river boats. He encouraged her to get her captain’s license so she could share the watch with him. She was the first licensed riverboat captain along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
The instrument she stands next to is called a Telegraph, although not the kind used for Morse Code messages. It served as a throttle on a riverboat, helping to control its speed.
Mary continued piloting after her husband’s death and, after WWII, bought the Delta Queen, a luxurious paddle steamboat. She co-captained with her son and was known for entertaining the passengers with stories of life on the river and dancing in her sequin gowns. She died onboard at the age of 79. Since then, her ghost has been seen numerous times and has been said to have given a warning that saved the boat from what could have been major damage. The boat is now permanently moored in Chattanooga and serves as a hotel and restaurant.
James Bradley was selected as the subject of this statue to represent the Underground Railroad Movement. Bradley was a former slave who was brought to America from Africa at the age of 2. He taught himself to read and write and, starting at age 15, began to dream of freedom. He worked almost 10 years to buy himself from his owners, which he did in 1833 for about $700. Wanting to live in a free state, he moved to Cincinnati. He enrolled at Lane Seminary and has said he was treated like an equal by his fellow students.
In 1834, Bradley was a featured and persuasive speaker at the Lane Debates. He passionately argued against the faulty reasoning that led “colonizationists” to believe that freed slaves should be returned to Africa. He caught the attention of the leadership of Oberlin College, who invited him to attend. Another battle began to permit black students to enroll at Oberlin. The battle was won and Oberlin College became the first in the country to have a formal “race-blind” admissions policy.
History doesn’t tell us where Bradley went after his time at Oberlin, but his life and his memory serve as an inspiration to us all.
Chief Little Turtle
A chief of the Miami people, Little Turtle was one of the most famous Native American military leaders of his time. He was one of the leaders of an alliance between the Miami, the Shawnee and the Delaware, who came together to resist the white settlement of the lands north of the Ohio River. The war that resulted is known as the Northwest Indian War and was sometimes called “Little Turtle’s War”.
Although winning many battles against the U.S. troops, Little Turtle’s confederacy finally agreed to negotiation and the war ended shortly thereafter. Later in his life, Chief Little Turtle met George Washington, who presented him with a ceremonial sword. He also met John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Little Turtle died in 1812 and is buried in Fort Wayne, IN.
Depicted with his notepad of drawings, James Audubon was a naturalist, ornithologist and painter. His extensive illustrations and studies of 435 American birds were compiled in his book The Birds of America, considered to be one of the most comprehensive ornithological reference works ever published. When he brought his as yet unpublished manuscript and drawings to England, he became an overnight success. Not only did his life-size bird portraits appeal to the English people, his stories of life in the American wilderness also struck a chord.
Although Audubon was a hunter, he was also a conservationist who warned against the destruction of birds and their natural habitats. The Audubon Society, which took his name to honor him, continues his work of protecting the habitats of birds and the study of the natural history of our country.
Daniel Carter Beard’s House & Statue
A short and pleasant walk away from the Riverside Drive statues will bring you to the home of Daniel Carter Beard, the father of what became the Boy Scouts of America. The setting of his childhood home at the confluence of the Licking and Ohio Rivers ignited his interest in nature and outdoor activities. The home is still a private residence and is not open to the public.
The statues are of Beard and a young scout. When Beard moved to New York City after college, he realized that inner city children did not have the opportunities to engage with nature that he had as a child. He formed a group called the Sons of Daniel Boone, after explorer and naturalist Daniel Boone. He taught camping, hand crafts