The dramatic stone home on a hill north of Chillicothe, Ohio, was the home of Thomas and Eleanor Swearingen Worthington and their ten children. The mansion and the grounds are important due to the role Thomas Worthington played in the history of Ohio through his public service.
Sometimes referred to “as the father of Ohio statehood,” Thomas Worthington (1773-1827) was one of Ohio’s first U.S. senators (1803-1807) and there he lobbied for Ohio’s statehood. He served in the Ohio statehouse from 1807-1808, and again in the U.S. Senate from 1811-1814. He became the sixth governor of Ohio (1814-1818). In 1818, Worthington stepped away from politics for a time and reinvested his energies in his numerous business enterprises, including farming, milling, land surveying, river shipping and construction of river canals. His business and political success may be considered additionally impressive since Worthington was orphaned at age seven and had the benefit of little formal education.
Since Worthington was one of Ohio's most important political leaders in the late 1700s and the early 1800s, influential and well-known visitors often visited Adena. Among them were William Henry Harrison, James Monroe, Henry Clay and the great Shawnee leader Tecumseh.
Originally laid out as a 2000-acre estate, the mansion was designed and built by Benjamin Henry Latrobe of Washington D.C. Latrobe is considered the first professional American architect and served as architect of the U.S. capitol under President Thomas Jefferson and helped design the White House.
Construction began in 1806 and the family moved into the mansion in 1807. The exterior is fabricated of blocks of locally quarried sandstone. Currently, the mansion is surrounded by the 300 remaining acres of the grounds, gardens and five outbuildings that have been restored or reconstructed.
The mansion included large spaces for public gatherings, such as a dining rooms and spaces for entertaining Worthington's many guests. These rooms were decorated to exhibit the Worthington's wealth and influence. The private portions of the house were smaller and simpler, but for the time, they still exhibited the Worthington's more affluent lifestyle. Latrobe's plan also included a kitchen, offices, and storage rooms in Adena, facilities usually found in outbuildings during this period.
The Worthingtons planted extensive gardens around the home including a fruit tree orchard, grape vines and plots for vegetables. Once the grounds served as a dramatic setting for outdoor walks and soirees. The gardens have undergone major renovations, and the gardens at Adena have again becoming a focal point for the public to have a view into the lifestyle lived in the early nineteenth century. Visitors may stroll through three terraces of flowers and vegetables, as well as see trees in the grove.
Worthington died in 1827 and his widow, Eleanor, accepted the responsibilities of managing the estate with their eldest son, James. Eleanor died in 1848 and the estate passed to James and his wife. The estate remained in the family until 1896. In 1947 it was bequeathed to the state of Ohio and shortly afterward the Ohio Historical Society accepted responsibilities for the maintaining the property for the people of Ohio. After significant restoration by the Society, Adena opened to the public for the Ohio sesquicentennial in 1953.
During the Ohio Bicetennial in 2003, an additional restoration project focused on the house and its furnishings.