November 2007 Issue
Ohio's Best Hometowns 2008 - Chillicothe
A neighborly, historic city is primed for growth.
During the nation’s midterm elections one year ago, the popular Comedy Central series “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” journeyed from its headquarters in New York City to the Buckeye State for its “Midwest Midterm Midtacular.” Tellingly, one of the first towns its “correspondents” visited was Chillicothe.
“I’m here in the real Ohio, Jon — Chillicothe,” cooed comedian-correspondent Rob Riggle. All joking aside, “The Daily Show” was on to something. Chillicothe means “principal town.” Shawnee Indians gave the town, which was founded in 1796 by Colonel Nathaniel Massie, its name, and today, Chillicothe, with its mix of history and beauty, arts and culture, community spirit and political awareness, is a microcosm of everything Ohioans stand for and value.
“What we have here is quality of life — neighbor taking care of neighbor,” says Chillicothe’s mayor, Joseph P. Sulzer. Wander into Grinder’s Coffee and Café, in the town’s historic downtown, on any given lunch hour, and you’ll see this in action. Patrons of all ages — families, friends and coworkers — mingle and trade news and gossip over homemade potato chips, coffee and sandwiches. Nearby, in Yoctangee Park, groups of children toss food to swarms of ducks.
“One of the things I love about Chillicothe… is we treat people very nicely,” says Bart Henshaw, manager of the Chillicothe Farmer’s Market. “We have neighborhoods where people care and take care of each other and watch out and talk and sit out on front porches.”
Situated in the rolling hills of Ross County, Chillicothe is an Appalachian success story. Small businesses thrive downtown, and Bridge Street, the town’s commercial district, is undergoing major growth and expansion. A $34 million, state-of-the-art addition to the city’s high school was completed last year and an addition to the middle school was due to be completed this fall. Ohio University’s Chillicothe campus has seen a 25.3 percent increase in enrollment over the last two years, and Adena Regional Health System, one of the region’s top employers, is consistently ranked in the Thomson 100 Top Hospitals. In the summer, fans cheer on the Chillicothe Paints, the town’s popular minor league baseball team, and thousands turn out — and camp out — for the Ross County fair.
The town’s biggest draw, however, is its history. Chillicothe was Ohio’s first capital (from 1803 to 1809). Thomas Worthington, Ohio’s sixth governor and the “father of Ohio statehood,” hailed from Chillicothe, and his home, Adena Mansion & Gardens, is now a museum and education center. And of course, there’s the professionally produced outdoor drama “Tecumseh!,” which takes place every summer at Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheatre. The town is rich in Native American history. Prior to Chillicothe’s founding, Adena, Hopewell and Shawnee Indians inhabited the area. Preserved earthworks can be seen in the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park.
“The people make the town,” says Richard Warnock, operations manager at Adena Mansion & Gardens, who has lived in Chillicothe for 27 years. “People wave [to one another] and are friendly. If you’re a visitor, they do the same thing.”
Location: 47 miles south of Columbus
Size: 9.7 miles
Type of government: Mayor and 10-member council