A recent report noted that some important sites to the history of aviation in Dayton are facing hurdles in their preservation.
Numerous places in Dayton are critical to the history of flight, and they’re places you can visit to feel that history. Here are five of them:
Considered the first true “airport,” Huffman Prairie Flying Field was pasture land that the Wright brothers borrowed from Dayton banker Torrence Huffman. In 1904 and 1905 the Wrights refined the control of their Wright Flyer II and III models which are considered the first practical airplanes. On the Huffman Prairie the Wrights used a launching system to assist their takeoffs and accumulated 150 flights with more than 300 total minutes in the air.
The Wrights returned to Huffman Prairie with their Wright Company airplanes in 1910 as a base for testing, a flying school and exhibition team and stayed until 1916.
Wright Company Factory
In 1909 the Wright brothers formed the Wright Company to manufacture and sell their airplanes. The following year, the first of two Wright Company Factory buildings was constructed on Abbey Avenue on the west side of Dayton.
A second building was completed in 1911, and 120 airplanes of 13 different models were produced at the factory. This was the first airplane factory in America. The building later became part of General Motors and was expanded to make auto parts. The site was cleared automotive industry buildings in 2014 and Wright Company Factory buildings remain with similar buildings.
Hawthorn Hill became the family home of the Wrights in 1914, two years after the death of Wilbur Wright from typhoid. Orville Wright, his sister Katharine and their father, Bishop Milton Wright, lived in the home. The grand house reflects the success of the Wrights and contains Orville’s library and other eccentric treasures. Listed as a National Historic Landmark, the home is open for tours by Dayton History.
Wright Bicycle Shop
The Wright Cycle Company Building on S. Williams St. is one of the locations where the Wrights operated their business during the bicycle craze of the late 19th century. Inside this shop managed by the Dayton Aviation National Historical Park are tools and bikes from the time that reflect the changes in bicycle styles of the period to the new “safety” bicycles that the Wrights produced. Many of the lightweight bicycle building techniques translated directly to airplane construction.
Wright Brothers National Museum
The only airplane designated a National Historic Landmark, the Wright Flyer III, is located at Carillon Historical Park’s Wright Brothers National Museum. This aircraft was considered by the Wrights as the most important of their work as it was flown at Huffman Prairie to refine the control of flying machines. The Wright Flyer III is on display in Wright Hall, which was designed with input from Orville Wright.
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