Ashville, Ohio – June 2015 – World’s Oldest Traffic light, Old Tractors and Ohio’s first mansion

The following Saturday we set off early in the morning, heading down US 23 south of Columbus. Our first stop was the town of Ashville, a town of 4000 in Pickaway County.

The highlight of Ashville is its claim that it has the World’s Oldest Traffic Light, as their museum, aptly named Ohio’s Small Town Museum. It is reported that the light has worked continuously since 1932 when it was installed at the corner of Main and Long streets. The light looks like a silver, Buck Rogers-era football, and operates like a radar screen, with green and red alternately wiping in a circle across its face. It was retired from active duty in 1982 only because color-blind people couldn’t tell if it was green or red.

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Since then it has hung in the museum, except for special occasions. The nice old lady who was running the museum that day was more than happy to tell us about her town, and the famous light, as well as all the other unique displays in their museum.

Leaving the cool traffic light behind, we were off for our next stop, an antique farm equipment show in the town of Piketon, in far southern Ohio. As noted previously the good folks of Southern Ohio must be bored and have had far too many turn to meth as there 8 signs along the highway for getting help getting rid of addictions. But we encountered none on our way and before you knew it we were at the Pike County Fairgrounds.

The Southern Ohio Farm Power of the Past show featured antique tractors and farm equipment on display, demonstrations of farm use, hit and miss engines, pony rides, horse pulls, kiddie tractor pulls, a corn hole tournament, wood carving, a flea market, and food vendors.

Apparently farm people like to restore tractors the same way many restore cars, and the collection and quality of the restorations was excellent. In addition there were a couple of interesting ways people had rigged up to make home made ice cream. The first guy has a small ‘hit or miss’ engine connected.

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A hit-and-miss engine is a type of four-stroke internal combusion engine that was conceived in the late 19th century and was produced by various companies from the 1890s through approximately the 1940s. The name comes from the method of speed control that is implemented on these engines. The sound made when the engine is running without a load is a distinctive “POP whoosh whoosh whoosh whoosh POP” as the engine fires and then coasts until the speed decreases and it needs to fire again to maintain its average speed.

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The most interesting one was connected to a stationary bicycle, so you had to earn your ice cream by peddling. We gave it a brief spin, but he owner didn’t have the mix ready yet, therefore no ice cream for us.

Once we had our fill of antique tractors we started back north, stopping in Chillicothe for lunch. Thanks to Tripadvisor.com we found the Old Canal Smokehouse. Good food and a nice atmosphere made for a nice lunch.

Chillicothe was the first state capital in Ohio, and as a result has some early interesting architecture. Included in this is the Adena Mansion was built for Thomas Worthing by Benjamin Latrobe, and was completed in 1807.It is located on a hilltop west of downtown. The property surrounding the mansion included the location of the first mound found to belong to the Adena Culture and thus the Adena mansion is the namesake for the Adena people. The state coat of arms is thought to depict the view of Mount Logan from the Adena property.

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The stone mansion has historically accurate interiors, including furnishings. The grounds cover 300 acres of the original 2,000-acre estate. There is a garden area featuring kitchen herbs and heirloom vegetables, with some varieties available for purchase. A former overseer’s house has also been restored and demonstrates life for German immigrants to the area. Thomas Worthington recorded that he chose Adena as the name for his estate because it referred to “places remarkable for the delightfulness of their situation.

A modern museum and education center features exhibits on the early European settlement of Ohio, as well as the Worthington family history. It also speaks to the visits Tecumseh made to the estate, and how well he was received.

Strangely as we left the museum we noticed the small farm on the property had a camel, as well as some horses. There was no explanation as to why a camel would be on an Ohio farm.

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From about 200 BC to AD 500, the Ohio River Valley was a central area of the prehistoric Hopewell culture. The term Hopewell culture is applied to a broad network of beliefs and practices among different Native peoples who inhabited a large portion of eastern North America. The culture is characterized by its construction of enclosures made of earthen walls, often built in geometric patterns, and mounds of various shapes. Visible remnants of Hopewell culture are concentrated in the Scioto River valley near present-day Chillicothe.

Mound City, located north of Chillicothe along the Scioto River, is a group of 23 earthen mounds constructed by the Hopewell culture. Each mound within the group covered the remains of a charnel house. After the Hopewell people cremated the dead, they burned the charnel house. They constructed a mound over the remains. They also placed artifacts, such as copper figures, mica, projectile points, shells, and pipes in the mounds, many of which are display in the onsite museum

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We participated in a ranger lead tour of the mounds, where he added interesting background to the mounds, as well as guidance to explore the rest of the park for further significant sites.

As we returned to Columbus we stopped at Scioto Downs, a horse race track south of the city along US 23. The main grandstands is built in the Googie style, with a huge cantilevered roof.

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After spending the day in southern Ohio the crowd was definitely more urban in it’s feel. Lots of people you would think would be stereotypical ‘Saturday night at the horse races’ crowd, smoking on cigars reading the Racing Forum, and generally thinking they were going to hit it big that night. The best part was the track offered simulcasts, and this particular day was the running of the Belmont Stakes so while there was about 50 people sitting in the stands, there were 500 inside screaming at the TVs for the 2:26 it took for American Pharoah to win. Since we didn’t pick the daily double, or any other winners, we headed home.