“No ghosts – not even rumors of ghosts here,” explained the guide as she began an interesting tour of the Worthington Mansion at Adena State Memorial near Chillicothe, Ohio. Built in 1806-07, this beautiful mansion home was designed by what many consider the first American architect, Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Usually Latrobe was busy with larger projects, such as designing the United States Capitol, but as a friend of Thomas Worthington he agreed to design a beautiful home on the 2000 acre estate.
The Worthington home, Adena, was the most magnificent mansion in the area at that time, and fascinated crowds of visitors. Large panes of window glass and papered walls were novelties which especially attracted attention. The sandstone blocks for the house were all dug from a quarry on the property.
This drawing by Henry Howe in 1846 shows the beautiful garden vista at Adena that inspired the Great Seal of Ohio. Looking across the front lawn, the Scioto River flowed between the cultivated fields and Mount Logan. On the Great Seal of Ohio, the sun displays thirteen rays of light symbolizing the thirteen colonies. In the field is a shock of wheat representing the prominent field of agriculture in the state. Nearby, resembling a shock of wheat but showing Ohio’s Indian heritage, is a sheaf of seventeen arrows proclaiming Ohio as the seventeenth state.
Today the house has been restored to appear much like it did during the time the Worthingtons lived there. Much of their original furniture can still be seen. Worthingtons’ actual skeleton key was used to unlock the door to begin the tour, and felt lucky to have it in my possession for a short while. Upon entering the mansion, a beautiful large clock made by George McCormick and costing $35 at that time stands beside a beautiful staircase, which appears to be marble but was actually painted with a feather to achieve that effect. Throughout the house a shade of pink paint was used. Paint was very expensive at that time and the pink tint was achieved by crushing a special insect into the paint.
Ten children were raised in the nursery, which strangely enough had no heat. Guess they had to be strong to survive, but none of those children died. The parents’ room was next to them and had a nice fireplace so hopefully they kept the door open. Worthington’s wife, Eleanor, taught the children in the parlor while running the household from there at the same time. On the wall was a list of Family Maxims to live by, for example: “Keep everything in its proper place, do everything in its proper time, and delay not till tomorrow what should be done today.”
The rooms on the second floor were all bedrooms, except one which was perhaps a servant’s room, and a large dark closet where, it was told, they placed children when they misbehaved. Many famous guests stayed here including Henry Clay, General William Henry Harrison, and President James Monroe. Of special interest was the screen on the left side, which hid from view their bathing area.
Among the four bedrooms upstairs, there was one for the boys and another for the girls. Although there were ten children, there were seldom more than three in a room at one time. On the dresser in the girls’ room was a set of cards for learning the alphabet with a flexible Mr Hodge Podge to bend to the shape of the letters. Guess the girls had homework even way back then. Education was very important to the Worthington family and they even thought it important to educate the girls, which was not a common occurrence in the 1800s. Imagine they took a break now and then and looked out the window at the beautiful gardens surrounding their home.
After reading a book on ancient history, on Sept. 18, 1811, Thomas Worthington wrote in his diary: “Adena” a name given to “places remarkable for the delightfulness of their situations.” It becomes apparent that visitors experience this same type of feeling by the smiles on their faces as they explore this beautiful mansion from years gone by.
The Adena Mansion is located Northwest of Chillicothe, Ohio just off State Route 35. Directions are well posted to the Adena State Memorial, which includes the Mansion and Gardens. It is a short walk through the Gardens to arrive at the Mansion. Admission is reasonable but you need to check their schedule for hours opened.
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