As part of Saturday’s Tourist In My Own Backyard adventure, I revisited Adena Mansion and Gardens. This historic site in Chillicothe, Ohio was the home of one of Ohio’s founding fathers.
Thomas Worthington came from a background of neglect before becoming a politician, a surveyor and a businessman. He is most famous as Ohio’s sixth governor. He also platted the nearby town of Logan, Ohio. He advocated for public education, opposed the War of 1812, opposed slavery and established the State Library of Ohio.
His legacy is vast and impressive.
Completed in 1807, Adena was designed by famed architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Our tour guide said it is one of just three Latrobe houses left standing in the country.
The sandstone was quarried on the property and I imagine that the wood for the house and furniture was cut there as well.
I was lucky to catch a tour with just two other people. To provide some perspective, the tour after mine was so big they had to split it up into two groups.
After a lifetime of periodically taking this tour, it still surprises me that I learn something new every visit. Our tour guide this time is a high school French teacher and she did a great job of telling the story, weaving together the human stories with the historic events.
I learned that Thomas Worthington was a notorious cheapskate. I knew that there were many instances in this house where faux techniques were used to fake mahogany and marble. This was done partly out of practicality because shipping in marble across the wilderness was expensive. It was also done partly because Thomas Worthington simply didn’t like to spend money. You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside so you’ll have to take my word for it that the marble faked with a turkey feather is pretty convincing.
There are also many interesting tidbits about the Worthington family that you’ll learn along the way. For example, Thomas and Eleanor Worthington had ten children and all lived to adulthood, an impressive feat for that time. One daughter, Sarah, opened Philadelphia’s School of Design For Women in 1848. That school still exists today as Moore College of Art and Design.
If you pay attention on the tour, you will find it thought provoking. It always makes me shudder to think what it was like for Mrs Worthington to leave civilization to come to the Ohio Territory and set up housekeeping. Their first home on this property was a log cabin and was about an hour walk from town.
Here’s a fun fact. From the hilltop where Worthington built his home, inspiration was found to create the Ohio State Seal. They have a pull off where you can stop and enjoy the view. It looks a lot different today but it’s still an important piece of Ohio history.
Some significant events and conversations took place here. Henry Clay was such a frequent guest there’s a bedroom named in his honor. Shawnee Chief Tecumseh visited here along with Blue Jacket, Roundhead and Panther. Tecumseh presented Thomas Worthington a tomahawk with the promise that he would never lift his tomahawk to him in battle. This meaningful artifact can be viewed in the museum on site.
Sadly, some members of the Worthington family fell on hard times and the home was in bad shape by the time it was sold to another family. You see, it had been left vacant for several years and local farmers used the home to store hay and to keep their chickens. It was sold at the turn of the 20th century to another family that adapted the house into a summer home. It began operating as a tourist attraction in the fifties. Restoration projects over the years have revived the home to reflect how it would have appeared when the Worthingtons lived there.
In addition to the house tour, there’s a museum, some outbuildings and trails to walk. My favorite spot is a toss up between the old barn and the garden. Admission is just $10 for an adult. Watch their online calendar or follow them on Facebook for special events. You can even host your own event or wedding here.
Ready to visit or learn more? There’s a ton of history available on the Adena Mansion and Gardens website. Tomorrow I will show you some pictures from the grounds.