Thursday, February 27, 2003

This town is party central

Chillicothe opens Bicentennial

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Chillicothe, Ohio's first capital, retains its historic small-town charm with buildings from the 1800s.
(Ross County Bicentennial Commission)
| ZOOM |
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio - When officials needed a community to kick off the state's 200th birthday on Statehood Day, March 1, they didn't have to debate the location.

After all, Chillicothe equals Buckeye history.

The General Assembly will meet there and the Ohio Bicentennial Commission will hold programs, including the governor's Bicentennial Ball.

Chillicothe's past runs deep:

• Eastern capital of the Northwest Territory.

• Site of the first Ohio constitutional convention.

• Ohio's first capital.

• A major stop on the Ohio and Erie Canal.

• Home of Thomas Worthington, the Father of Ohio Statehood.

• Home of Edward Tiffin, Ohio's first governor.

• Home of the Hopewell Indian culture from 200 B.C. to 500 A.D.

Statehood Day will also kick off eight months of bicentennial programs and give Chillicothe, a city of 21,000 people, a third opportunity for statewide attention.

"It will be the biggest event to hit town since the state was formed," said Kathryn Galloway, owner of Victoria Manor Bed and Breakfast. "Statehood Day isn't new to us. The town has always celebrated it. But this time will be different - the big party."

Mayor Margaret Planton said the bicentennial will have "a dramatic impact on this community for decades. We are enhancing road signs, cleaning up neighborhoods and beautifying the community."

She said the bicentennial will be the catalyst the town needs to increase tourism and the economy. She said Chillicothe can offer four major attractions: the outdoor drama Tecumseh!; Adena State Memorial, the newly renovated home of Worthington; the Ross County Historical Society Museum, featuring the Ohio Constitution desk; and the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park.

Other Saturday events in Chillicothe include:
Statehood Day Prayer Breakfast, 7:45 a.m. at Chillicothe High School's Hatton Gymnasium. Cost: $15.
Ross County Bicentennial Bell, 8 a.m. at Paint and Water streets. The bell will be removed from its mold, shined and polished in preparation for its first ringing and dedication.
Statehood Day Celebration, 12:30 p.m. at the Ross County Courthouse, the celebration will feature the dedication and first ringing of the new Ross County Bicentennial Bell. The courthouse is on the site of Ohio's first statehouse.
Joint Session of Ohio's General Assembly, 2 p.m. Space limitations prohibit the event from being open to the public, but you can watch the assembly on TV screens around the city.
Citizens National Bank Governor's Bicentennial Ball, 7 p.m. at the Ohio University-Chillicothe Shoemaker Center. Cost: $25.
"I got my first peek at Adena last week," Planton said. "Seeing the scope of the renovation amazed me. It will give people a chance to experience history. Adena is more than an old house. It reminds me of Monticello. We're gratified that the state realized what a jewel it has here."

Chillicothe is also an architectural treasure. Through 1816 it served as Ohio's first and third capital, except for a few years when Zanesville took over.

From the window of her historic 12-room home on Western Avenue, Galloway can see the old courthouse and downtown. Founded in 1796, Chillicothe became a major settlement in pioneer Ohio. It served as the seat of Ross County government in 1798, when Ross was one of only six counties in the territory's Ohio country.

Galloway uses four rooms for her bed and breakfast, on 2 acres that include a carriage house and other outbuildings.

She considers her brick Italianate home, built in the 1850s, as a small piece in Chillicothe's larger architectural mosaic.

"The town is known for its 19th-century buildings, a combination of Federal, Italianate, Greek Revival and other styles," she said. "

The bicentennial will "leave a legacy for the city," Planton said. The city has planned the event for six years and timed a downtown revitalization project to coincide with the bicentennial.

Downtown Chillicothe buildings remain in good condition - and mostly occupied. "People don't know just how unique it is these days to have a downtown that's so old and vital," Planton said.

Local history and architecture will give the city an opportunity to promote itself to people across the state, said Scott Graham, director of the Ross County/Chillicothe 2003 Commission.

"The whole town is excited," he said.

Lee Yoakum, a spokesman for the Ohio Bicentennial Commission, said there will be 40 Bicentennial Commission events statewide including antique car rallies, exhibits, living history performances and a lecture series.

But on Saturday, attention will be focused solely on Chillicothe, where Adena State Memorial will reopen at 11 a.m. The stone mansion recently underwent a $6.5 million renovation, including construction of a visitors center.

The historical society's new $1.5 million Heritage Center will open Saturday.

At noon that day, on the steps of the Ross County Courthouse, the U.S. Postal Service will release a stamp recognizing Ohio statehood.

The stamp features a photograph of a Washington County farm owned by John Lehman of Marietta. The picture was taken by photographer Ian Adams of Cuyahoga County.

Also, groundbreaking will be held Saturday on the $1.5 million restoration of Chillicothe's Majestic Theatre at 45 E. Second St. In continuous operation since 1853, the theater is a landmark.

Information about Statehood Day events can be obtained from the Chillicothe/ Ross County 2003 Commission, 749-779-2003, or its Web site,


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