Archeological dig at Newport Barracks to begin Monday

Published 4:04 pm Monday, December 4, 2023

Monday, Dec. 4th, is the day Northern Kentucky University students and professional archeologists will begin their dig to learn more about the rich history buried just beneath the surface at the Newport Barracks.

During the survey work conducted earlier this year, the archeologists used state-of-the-art technology, ground-penetrating radar and historic and satellite-based imagery to help identify any surviving remnants of lost structures.

“Now the real fun begins,” said Dr. Brian Hackett, director of the Masters of Public History program at NKU. “For the past two semesters our students have been researching and recording every aspect of history from the Barracks.  Now they’ll embark on a journey of discovery hopefully forging a tangible connection with our region’s history. It’s an invaluable experience for everyone involved.”

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The Newport Barracks site, which is located at the confluence of the Ohio and Licking Rivers, was a pivotal part of the United States Army operations for over a century. Thousands of soldiers called the barracks home during its usage. It is an important historical landmark, and the City of Newport is looking forward to the artifacts the team may unearth.

“The City of Newport is excited about historic treasures that the dig may produce,” said Newport City Manager Tom Fromme. “The Barracks is a significant part of our city as well as the United States.”

According to the Kentucky Historical Society, the Newport Barracks were erected in 1803, when General James Taylor, founder of Newport, convinced his cousin, future president James Madison, to establish a military post in northern Kentucky. Shortly thereafter, the Newport Barracks were built on five acres of land donated by Taylor, who personally oversaw the construction of the site.

The post lasted until the floods of 1882 and 1884 damaged the buildings beyond repair. A decision was then made to relocate the post to higher ground in Fort Thomas in the late 1880s. The former location on the river was deeded to the city of Newport in 1894.

The site of the former Newport Barracks now serves as Gen. James Taylor Park and as a reminder of Kentucky’s military heritage.