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The following article is from the Cincinnati Enquirer
dated Tuesday, July 29, 2003

 

190 years of history live in Southgate House
Visitors included Abraham Lincoln and Johnny Paycheck

By Terry Flynn
Enquirer contributor

 

[photo]
Newport's Southgate House, built in 1814, is one of the top historic spots in Northern Kentucky. Today it's a popular music spot.
The Enquirer/PATRICK REDDY

 

NEWPORT - The stately Southgate House, perched on a little knoll above Third Street, has watched nearly 190 years of history roll past it along the Ohio River, remaining as one of the top historic spots in the city and Northern Kentucky.

The house was built in 1814 by Richard Southgate, who came to Newport from Richmond, Va., in 1795. He was commonwealth attorney for Campbell County in 1798, a state representative in 1803 and state senator from 1817-1821.

According to Southgate family tradition, the house was built by British prisoners of war from the War of 1812 who were being held in Newport. When it was completed, it was the second-largest dwelling in the area, taking in an entire city block.

It was second only to the home by Gen. James Taylor in 1812 at what is now Third and Overton streets.

The history of Southgate House includes famous visitors as well as residents, not unusual in the 1800s for homes of wealthy families.

Legend has it that a company of about 50 men led by a Capt. Sherman was treated to a night of extravagance at Southgate House before departing Dec. 30, 1835, to assist Texans in their battle against Santa Anna at San Jacinto. The company acquitted itself well, fighting for Gen. Sam Houston and helping secure independence for Texas.

About 1856, Abraham Lincoln, a Kentucky native, visited Richard Southgate at the Newport home.

The Keturah Moss Taylor chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the first chapter in Northern Kentucky and the second in the state, was founded at Southgate House in 1894 by then-owner Fannie Maddux.

Gen. John T. Thompson was born at Southgate House in 1860. An armorer for the U.S. Army, he invented the submachine gun that bears his name in 1920.

The small automatic firearm revolutionized U.S. hand-held weapons and was first used by the U.S. Marines in Nicaragua in 1925. The "tommygun" gained notoriety, however, for its use by gangsters and police in the 1920s and 1930s, when it picked up the nickname "Chicago typewriter."

The Southgate House was purchased by the Knights of Columbus Home Company of Campbell County in 1914, and the K of C was responsible for adding the brick front porch and a large room at the rear of the building on Southgate Alley. The structure was purchased from the K of C in 1976 by the Raleigh family that also owns the Brass Ass and Brass Bull bars on Monmouth Street.

It was the scene of some country and western concerts by the likes of Johnny Paycheck, Johnny Rodriguez and others. It briefly served as the home of a local theatrical group in the early 1990s that produced musicals including Little Shop of Horrors and Chorus Line.

Today, the Southgate House, under the leadership of Ross Raleigh, is a popular spot for a variety of musical presentations, including country and western, bluegrass, alternative rock and contemporary rock.

Southgate House can present large shows in the ballroom or smaller performances in the lounge. There is also an art gallery on the renovated third floor, where the work of local artists shares space with those from around the United States and Europe.

"We've been able to do pretty well with the entertainment, although business dropped off after 9-11," Raleigh explained. "Of course, with a building that's almost 200 years old, there is always something to work on or fix, so a lot of our money has gone into those areas. An old building probably isn't the best place for a business, but it's a beautiful old place."