Arriving in Chillicothe by US Route 50 (from Bainbridge), brings you directly into downtown on Main Street. Its intersection with Paint Street marks the center of 16+ blocks of remarkable historic architecture, much dating from the time when Chillicothe newspaper editor Ephraim Squier and physician Edwin Davis collaborated on their Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, the first publication of the new Smithsonian Institution in 1848.
The name “Chillicothe” means “principal town” in Shawnee, and old Ohio maps show several Shawnee-era “chillicothes.” But it was this one that, long before, was the center of Ohio’s earthwork building culture, and that in 1803 became Ohio’s first state capital. Prosperity came early to this village on the banks of the Scioto, a gateway to the large “Virginia Military District” between here and the Little Miami River to the west. Early culture and commerce were influenced by wealthy Virginia land-owners, whose huge estates produced cattle, pigs, and corn in abundance.
Today, historic districts preserve some of America’s best nineteenth-century commercial urban fabric, especiallly along Paint, Second Streets, and Water Streets.Superb specimens of historic house styles, churches, and public buildings line the nearby streets. Especially impressive are the many Greek Revival examples, dating from the grand days of the canal era: the 1830s through 50s.