Located on the banks of the Ohio River in Campbell County, Bellevue was founded in 1870, on land originally granted to General James Taylor, who fought in the War of 1812.
“We are a little bit higher from a standpoint of the river. So we don’t have a flood wall much like our neighbors have. We have open access to the views,” said Jody Robinson, assistant city administrator.
Bellevue Beach Park boasts a beautiful view of Cincinnati on the opposite bank. Back in the early 1900s, Queen City Beach, as it was then known, was the most popular place to spend a summer’s day.
“People would come from all over the Midwest to swim and canoe and enjoy the river,” said William Stolz of the Bellevue Historic Preservation Commission.
By the 1920s, river pollution put a stop to swimming at the beach. In the 1930s, a new dam was built that increased the water level and flooded the beaches.
The current park offers green space, a playground, and summer concerts.
Bellevue’s history is also unique for its reputation in the early 20th century as a center for homing pigeon enthusiasts. The pigeons were raised for races, and according to the Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky, the Bellevue aviary held government contracts for the training of pigeons for use in national emergencies.
From Bellevue’s earliest days, Fairfield Avenue has been the center of the town’s commerce, and today the avenue is one of Bellevue’s two historic districts. (The other is Taylor’s Daughters Historic District, which extends south of Fairfield Avenue to the railroad tracks and Center Street.) The business district has several family-owned businesses, such as Schneider’s Sweet Shop and Cleves and Lonnemann Jewelers.
First Fridays, hosted by Bellevue Renaissance, bring out the the crowds for shopping, dining, and fun. “Anytime we have friends or family from out of town that come visit Bellevue for the weekend, we always go down to Fairfield Avenue,” said Stolz.
Many residents have fond memories of the Marianne Theatre, built in 1942. “It was a destination, and people remember their first date there. They remember taking their grandchildren there,” said David Killen, professor of media at Cincinnati State University.
Now the city is hoping to find a new use for the building and bring it back as a hub of activity.
“Coming to Bellevue is coming and getting this gigantic embrace where you’re appreciated and it ‘s a place to experience, ” said Robinson.
This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2011, which originally aired on February 21, 2015. Watch the full episode.