On Sunday I met a friend at Adena Mansion and Gardens, a site operated by Ohio History Connection. I’ve been several times but she had not and I will use any excuse to support having this historic site so close to home.
Adena was the home of Thomas Worthington, the sixth governor of Ohio. Completed in 1807, the stone mansion has impressive 22″ thick standstone outer and support walls. It has been restored to look much like it might have when the Worthingtons lived there. They even have some original Worthington furnishings, paintings, books and artifacts.
The home is impressive for many reasons but partly because it was designed by famed architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe and is just one of three Latrobe houses still standing today.
The estate originally spanned about 2,000 acres but today there remains just 300 acres for the home, buildings, walking trails and a reasonably new visitors center.
For just $10 for adults, $5 for kids 6-12 (and no charge for 5 and under) you can take a guided tour of the home and then explore the grounds, gardens, trails and museum on your own. Friends will understand that the terraced garden filled with flowers, vegetables, shrubs and trees is my favorite part of any visit.
I love how alive their garden is – not just with plants but with birds, butterflies, bees and insects. We even saw bunnies that afternoon.
They know a good bit about the Worthington family and about Thomas Worthington’s work. They also know about some of the terrible things that were done to this amazing house after the last Worthington lived there in the late nineteenth century and before the property was willed to the state in the mid nineteenth century. Years of restorations have revealed to historians clues about how the house was lived in and even about details like the original wallpaper patterns.
Our tour guide Sunday was superb. Her name is Catherine with a ‘C’ (as she introduced herself more than once) and she was both knowledgeable and passionate about the stories she told. I appreciate guides who sound as excited about the tour they’re giving on day 100 as they did on day one.
I tend to believe that people who think they don’t like history simply have never been taught history from a perspective they can appreciate. If all I knew of history were the dates and names, I wouldn’t care much for it either. However, learning the stories of the humans behind all those facts is fascinating, if you ask me.
Thomas and Eleanor Swearingen Worthington had ten children. Tour the home and you’ll learn about how they lived, where they dined and about the servants employed to care for them. You’ll learn about troubling times and about how Ohio very nearly was split down the middle, following the Scioto River as a border, and made into two states.
We have Thomas Worthington to thank for Ohio becoming just one, sort of heart shaped state, rather than two that resemble Indiana and Illinois.
He served as governor and as U.S. Senator but he also had private business interests in numerous areas including land surveying, shipping, farming and milling. He supported the construction of river canals and he supported the concepts of libraries and public schools.
Tour the home and you’ll learn about the perils of travel to Washington D.C. in the early nineteenth century and about the children who called this place home.
Adena sits high atop a hill overlooking Chillicothe. If you’re familiar with the Great Seal of Ohio, this imagery was inspired by the view from here. The view is now partly obscured by trees and is less picturesque thanks to industrial clutter down below. Nonetheless, the hills remain and it is moving to stand there and know this was the view that inspired our Great Seal.
There is a shelter house with some picnic tables – you might consider packing a lunch so you can make a day of it. Note, there are no concessions available on site most days. On Sunday, there was an old timey baseball game played by the Ohio Village Muffins so you could buy cold drinks and snacks for this special occasion. Otherwise, you need to take your own.
Interested in visiting? You can find rates, hours, special events and other important information here.
There are other things to do in the area. I would highly recommend seeing the outdoor drama Tecumseh. I worked in the box office when I was in college and marveled at the talent and quality of this show.
I found that a lot of locals had never even seen the show while I sold tickets to people literally from all over the world because it was one of the best outdoor dramas in the nation. If you do see the show, go early for a backstage tour. It’s interesting for all ages but especially helpful for kids to see that it’s really just play acting and nothing to find frightening.
Chillicothe also has a historic downtown with a few good restaurants and some nice shops and antique stores. The National Park Service operates Hopewell Culture National Historic Park not far from Adena. I haven’t visited since I was a kid but it’s on my list for this summer.
Photography of any kind inside the house is strictly prohibited but I had fun taking pictures of the gardens and areas surrounding the home!