Hidden in plain sight in the Wright-Dunbar neighborhood along West Third Street are larger-than-life-sized photographs on display at historic sites once occupied by the Wright brothers.
Local photographer, author and aviation historian Dan Patterson was approached by the National Park Service to become the artist in residence for Dayton National Aviation Heritage Historical Park in 2017.
Patterson reflected on the commonalities he shared with the Wrights.
“Instead of creating a piece of art for the park, my feeling was, let’s use the Wright brothers’ own photographs in a public art display and put the Wright brothers back where they were, life-sized,” he said. “So that they were in the neighborhood, they were on their back porch, they were at Huffman Prairie.”
The photographs were printed on a mesh material and displayed in three locations with their original sepia toned color. They range in size from 4-by-8 feet to 8-by-24 feet.
Seven Hawthorn Street was the location of the Wright Family home, and it showcases a photo of Wilbur and Orville that towers over back of the lot.
“This photograph is a timeless zinger of a portrait,” Patterson said. “There they are on their back porch and they look comfortable. I like the fact that they look confident. They’ve flown. They’ve done it. They’re getting ready to prove to the world what they did.”
The 1127 West Third Street site was the last Wright Cycle Company and the location where they did most of the work on their early gliders and airplanes. The large photos show Orville and Wilbur working at benches in the cycle shop. This type of photo, Patterson says, is rare. The cycle shop and the Wright family home were moved to Michigan by Henry Ford in the 1930s.
Huffman Prairie is where the Wrights refined their airplane design to make flight practical. The 8-by-24-foot photograph showed the 1904 Wright Flyer being pulled from the hangar. This photograph was taken off display after high wind took it down twice.
When asked about what Patterson thinks will be next, he said, “I think photographs of the historic record all around Dayton would be a great way for the history of Dayton to be told. Dayton is full of fascinating characters who have lived here. And there’s plenty of photographs. So, who knows?”