Native American woman at Earthworks at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe (photo courtesy of National Park Service)

5 Ways to Explore History in Chillicothe

This southeast Ohio community is steeped in history, from the earthen mounds that served as a place of ceremony for Indigenous people to the city's role as the state’s first capital.

Chillicothe was the capital of the Northwest Territory (from 1800 to 1803) and later the capital of Ohio (twice actually, from 1803 to 1810 and 1812 to 1816). Yet the history that courses through this city extends back nearly 2,000 years to the earthen mounds built by people of the Hopewell culture. Add to that a historic downtown that embraces Chillicothe’s rich past and beautifully cared-for old homes, and it is easy to see why history buffs love to visit.  

Hopewell Culture National Historical Park: The Indigenous people who thrived in Ohio nearly 2,000 years ago built elaborate earthen mounds that are believed to have been places of ceremony, including the ones located in what is now Chillicothe. This National Park Service site, which was named to the UNESCO World Heritage list along with other Ohio mound sites in 2023, provides the chance to learn about these people — known as the Hopewell culture — by way of ranger-led tours and a small museum that displays artifacts. 16062 St. Rte. 104, Chillicothe 45601, 740/774-1125,

Exterior of Atwood House Bed and Breakfast in Chillicothe (courtesy of Atwood House and Bed and Breakfast)
The Atwood House Bed and Breakfast: Bill Hirsch’s 1843 Greek Revival home has four rooms to choose from, including the President’s Room, which is decorated with personal mementos from the innkeeper’s time working for President Richard Nixon. Hirsch makes breakfast for his guests each morning, which is enjoyed at a beautifully set table in the dining room. Afterward, he is happy to share tales of the home’s history or bits of trivia like how President Woodrow Wilson spent summers as a boy at a home down the street. 68 S. Paint St., Chillicothe 45601, 740/774-1606,

Adena Mansion & Gardens: The father of Ohio statehood, Thomas Worthington was one of the state’s first U.S. senators and its sixth governor. He lived on this hilltop, first in an earlier home, and later in this Federal-style sandstone mansion designed by famed architect Benjamin Latrobe. Guided tours of the home are available April through October. A marker on-site notes the property’s view of Mount Logan, which is said to have inspired the vista depicted on the Great Seal of Ohio. 847 Adena Rd., Chillicothe 45601, 800/319-7248,

Pulled pork sandwich and corn from Old Canal Smoke House in Chillicothe (photo by Laura Watilo Blake)
Old Canal Smoke House: Chillicothe was one of the cities along the Ohio & Erie Canal, a trade route that flourished before the Great Flood of 1913. Old Canal Smoke House sits where the waterway once ran through town, and in keeping with that historic vibe, cooks its hickory-smoked meats in a renovated 1850s-era forge.  The menu spans brisket, pulled pork, chicken, salmon and even smoked meatloaf, but those who visit Friday and Saturday evenings can order smoked prime rib. 94 E. Water St., Chillicothe 45601, 740/779-3278,

Ross County Heritage Center: Founded in 1896, the Ross County Heritage Center is one of the oldest in Ohio, and its large collection includes artifacts from Ohio’s early governors as well as the table the Ohio constitution was signed on. But that’s just a glimpse of all there is to explore across the society’s seven buildings, which include a museum center, house museum and pioneer-style cabin. The historical society reopens each March with Ohio Statehood Day special programming. 45 W. Fifth St., Chillicothe 45601, 740/772-1936,