Newport's Hidden Treasure:
Older mansion, Southgate House, is concert hall
By Amanda Steiner
Photo credits by Amanda Steiner
Drive across the Ohio River from Cincinnati on
the Taylor Southgate Bridge, or walk across the Purple People Pedestrian
Bridge, and you’ll arrive in a little town called Newport, Kentucky.
Founded in 1795, Newport is home to many attractions just two minutes from
downtown Cincinnati; the Newport Aquarium, named number one aquarium in
the Midwest, and Newport on the Levee, a shopping and entertainment center
located on the river.
One attraction in particular appeals to music
lovers. The Southgate House, a four-story historic mansion-turned-music
venue, holds concerts for independent bands and supports the local music
scene by allowing new bands to play in one of their three concert rooms.
From the outside, visitors wouldn’t expect a
concert hall to be inside. Donning a haunted-house feel, the front of the
mansion looks old, but strangely inviting. The quaint bar and lounge on
the first floor is intimate; not what you would expect from a rock- music
venue. It’s as if you were sitting in someone’s living room for a
drink and conversation.
The unique ballroom on the first floor is where most of the large concerts take place. The room is large with a horseshoe balcony with tables and chairs overlooking the floor and the stage.
Lounge and Bar on the first floor is a place to sit, have a drink and chat
with friends and fans before the show.
The first floor, also called Junie’s Lounge,
has a bar, pool tables and a jukebox for people to get together before a
show. On the second floor there is a parlor for personal and intimate
performances by smaller bands. On the third floor of the house there is an
art gallery that allows local, national and international artists to come
display their work. The art scene uses this to their advantage, and many
artists break into the art world through the gallery.
The house was built in 1814 by Richard
Southgate, a lawyer who moved to Newport from Richmond, Virginia in 1795.
He was a state representative in 1803 and a state senator from 1817-1821.
He built the house to replace the log cabin that his family was living in
for the previous two decades.
The entrance to the Southgate House is
homey and oddly inviting for a rock concert hall.
Two minutes away, right across the Taylor
Southgate Bridge, is downtown Cincinnati.
The house became an entertainment and music
venue in 1923 when the owners added a bar and hosted live music shows.
“The house has a rich musical history,”
says Ross Raleigh, present owner of the Southgate House, who bought the
property with his family in 1976. “Tony Bennet, Frank Sinatra, and even
Little Richard have performed here.”
The Southgate House is a huge supporter of the
local music scene, and is now a place for fresh, contemporary music. Many
bands that play here are just getting ready to break into the mainstream
music scene. “We’ve always welcomed bands that have never had a chance
to play,” says Raleigh. “We’ve left that open for people. It’s
just a place for people to express their own form of art, music and
Paste magazine, a fast-growing independent
entertainment magazine, has named the Southgate House one of the world’s
top 40 music venues.
Not only is the Southgate House home to fresh,
independent music, it is also a popular place to hold proms and charity
events. “We just had an animal welfare group hold a benefit here,”
says Raleigh. “We just had a Native American group hold a benefit as
The Southgate House is a true gem of Newport.
The art and cultural community can appreciate a venue like this, and as
Ross Raleigh says, “This is a people’s place.”
Amanda Steiner is a
journalism student at Anderson University. She is an intern at Life in the
Midwest Magazine for the summer.
Tapes ‘n Tapes, an independent band played in the ballroom of the Southgate House. Many larger bands come to perform in the ballroom because of its large dance floor and balcony.