Sunday, May 27, 2001

Adena brings history to life

By Erin Kosnac
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When Thomas Worthington wrote in his diary, he didn't write about Tecumseh coming to his house or his sister's death. He wrote about the weather — a seemingly appropriate topic for a man in the 1800s who had a formal garden, vegetable garden and vineyard on Adena, his estate in Chillicothe.

        Through a project of the Ohio Historical Society, the gardens and the rest of Adena will come to life the way it did when Mr. Worthington, one of Ohio's first U.S. senators, lived there.

        “It's a beautiful home,” said Fred Stratmann, communications director for the Ohio Bicentennial Commission. “And it's important to make it a shining showcase of our state's history.”

        The society is beginning a project that will restore Mr. Worthington's estate, considered one of Ohio's most important pieces of frontier history.

        Construction of a visitor center on the site will begin this summer. The center will be open, along with one set of exhibits, from Memorial Day to Labor Day 2002. The $6.65 million project will have its grand opening in March 2003, coinciding with the state's bicentennial celebration.

Father of statehood

        Ohio's history as a state was shaped largely by Mr. Worthington.

  Facts about Adena and Thomas Worthington:
  • Adena, a Hebrew word, means “places remarkable for the delightfulness of their situations.”
  • The view from the front lawn of Adena is said to have inspired Ohio's State Seal.
  • Thomas Worthington served as one of Ohio's first U.S. senators with John Smith of Cincinnati.
  • Some of the notable guests at Adena included Tecumseh, President James Monroe, Gen. William Henry Harrison and Sen. Henry Clay of Kentucky.
        “Adena was the home of Thomas Worthington, the father of Ohio statehood,” Mr. Stratmann said. “It's really important for us to recognize him as that person.”

        Mr. Worthington was a proponent of Ohio's becoming a state, said Stuart Hobbs, historian and project manager for Adena, which has about 10,000 visitors annually. While in Washington in 1802, Mr. Worthington met with President Thomas Jefferson to discuss the importance of Ohio's achieving such status.

        “If it hadn't been for him and people like him, it might not have happened for years,” said Maggie Sanese, manager of communications for the Ohio Historical Society. “And it might not have happened in the same fashion.”

        But Adena is not only historically significant because of its residents but also because of its architect: Benjamin Henry Latrobe.

        “Latrobe was the first professional architect in the United States,” Mr. Hobbs said. “He was very prominent at the time for his work in Washington, D.C.”

        He had done work for such buildings as the White House and the Capitol.

        “You can tell this was not designed by a person lacking in training,” said Mary Anne Brown, site manager at Adena.

        Adena also has added significance, Mr. Hobbs said, because it is one of only three of Mr. Latrobe's American houses that are still standing.

        While little of Mr. Latrobe's work survives, a great deal associated with Mr. Worthington and Adena does.

        Mr. Worthington's diary is in the Library of Congress, Ms. Brown said, and family furniture has survived, as well as family portraits.

        “Those really make the house come alive,” she said. “When you can see the people, it all becomes so much more real.”

A needed element

        The visitor center will be built to make the experience more educational.

        “It's a needed element at the site to make more learning opportunities available for families and school groups where they can sit down together,” Ms. Sanese said. “Our mission as an organization is to be an educational institution.

        “We picked themes important about the state's past and ways to really understand the whole American experience through the eyes of an Ohioan.”

        The restoration of Adena will have a large role in Ohioans' celebration of their state's bicentennial.

        “It's one thing to have fireworks and such for a celebration, but the state wanted to do something lasting,” Ms. Brown said. “And Adena is a very fitting way to do so.”


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