A Piece of Chillicothe History

     The house at 58 West Fifth Street is on the National Register of Historic Places. A fine representation of early 19th century federal and neoclassical architecture, the home has been owned by several notable names in the early history of Ohio. The original home was built in 1805 by Nathaniel Willis, who emigrated from Boston where he had owned and edited a prominent patriot newspaper during the American Revolution, the Independent Chronicle. Willis was raised by a Son of Liberty and Boston sailmaker. At the age of 18 he was one of the younger patriots to participate in the Boston Tea Party. He headed to the frontier in the late 1780s and started a pro anti-federalist newspaper in what is now the State of West Virginia. Toward the end of the 1700s he and his new family moved to Chillicothe in the Northwest Territory where he started the "Scioto Gazette", which is the oldest continually printed newspaper west of the Appalachian Mountains, and he was also the official printer for the territorial and state legislatures

     The home changed hands a couple times shortly after Willis sold, until Thomas James bought the home in 1812. James came from a long line of iron masters and operated several iron forges in southern Ohio in the early 1800s. He expanded the home with a two story addition in 1812, and moved the front entrance of the home to face 5th St. ornamented with a gorgeous federal arch entrance around 1815. As his family continued to grow, he expanded the home again in the 1830s with a 5-room, two-story addition complete with a Greek Revival portico. Fortunately, he preserved the federal archway to serve as a striking feature in the foyer. James was involved in several businesses and served as president of the Bank of Chillicothe. It has been written that the James home played a central role in the social scene of early Chillicothe elites.

     In the late 1870s the home was purchased by the daughter of Ohio's first governor, Edward Tiffin. Eleanor and her husband, Matthew Scott Cook added a dining room and orangery to the former James residence. After her death, descendants along the matrilineal line continued to own the home until the late 20th century. 

     Drew and Steph acquired the home in 2019 after it had fallen into a state of disrepair. They embarked on a bold adventure to completely restore and renovate the home. Their goal was to preserve as much of the original architecture as possible, but add modern technologies to bring the home into the present. Guests will find that the approach blends nostalgic charm with upscale comfort.   

Images: top right - Masthead of the paper under Willis (engraved by Paul Revere)
bottom right - Thomas James with wife Jane and son William