Tour de Gem

Amanda and Stephen pictured in front of Hawthorn Hill, one of several Wright brothers' assets supported through the foundation.
Amanda and Stephen pictured in front of Hawthorn Hill, one of several Wright brothers' assets supported through the foundation.

The Wright Brothers Family Foundation

The Wright Brothers Family Foundation supports the preservation of aviation history related to Orville and Wilbur Wright by funding research and publication of aviation history, scholarships for studies in the fields of aviation and aeronautics, educational programming, the restoration and display of aviation artifacts, and landmarks and memorials related to the Wright brothers’ story. Established at The Dayton Foundation by Wilkinson Wright, the Wright brothers’ grandnephew, the fund today is advised by Stephen Wright and Amanda Wright Lane, great-grandnephew and great-grandniece, respectively.

Hawthorn Hill—Wright brothers’ family home

Due to an exciting partnership between Dayton History and The Wright Brothers Family Foundation, Hawthorn Hill, the Oakwood mansion that Orville Wright called home for nearly 35 years, is available for tours. This joint venture marks the first time that the structure will be accessible on a regular basis for members of the general public.

The building itself has had a long and colorful history of hosting distinguished visitors. Charles A. Lindbergh, internationally acclaimed for his 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, was invited to visit in June of that year on his return flight home to St. Louis. During his visit with Orville, throngs of people gathered on the lawns of the house, hoping for an impromptu view of this newest American hero. The unruly crowd dispersed only after Lindbergh and Orville appeared together on the front portico balcony for a few short minutes. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and former Ohio Governor James Middleton Cox stopped at Hawthorn Hill to pick up Orville for a joint visit to Wright Field. More recent visitors include President Ronald Reagan and professional golfer Arnold Palmer.

Even after Orville’s death in 1948, the mansion continued to welcome individuals from across the country and around the world. When efforts to find an individual to purchase the home failed, the executors of Orville’s estate listed the property on the real estate market. The National Cash Register Company, at the direction of executives Colonel Edward Deeds and Stanley Allyn, decided to purchase the property on the very day that the ‘For Sale’ sign was placed in the yard. NCR not only meticulously cared for the home but also preserved many of its original furnishings during the nearly 60 years of service as a NCR corporate guest house. The company returned the property to the Wright family in 2006.

Wright Company airplane factory

The Wright Company factory is located on the former Delphi Home Avenue plant in Dayton, Ohio. The factory was the first in America built for the purpose of manufacturing airplanes. NAHA has worked to have the factory preserved and restored as a unit of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, completing the story of the Wright brothers’ invention, development and commercialization of the airplane in Dayton. The site is closed to the public.

Wright Company formed in 1909

Wilbur Wright (1867–1912) and his brother Orville (1871-1948) built their first experimental airplanes in the back of their bicycle shop at 1127 W. Third St. They formed the Wright Company in November 1909. The company operated briefly in rented space until Building 1 was completed in 1910. Building 2 was erected in 1911.

The Wright Company produced approximately 120 airplanes in 13 different models. It introduced industrial aviation to several individuals who later became aviation leaders. Among them were Frank H. Russell (1878–1947) and Grover C. Loening (1888–1976). Orville sold his interest in the company in 1915, following Wilbur’s death in 1912.

The Wright Company buildings changed hands several times. The Dayton-Wright Airplane Company bought the buildings during World War I and named them Plant 3. It used them to make fittings for military aircraft that Dayton-Wright produced at its main plant in Moraine.

Airplanes to steering wheels

General Motors acquired Dayton-Wright in September of 1919, but GM didn’t stay in the airplane business. In 1922, GM began to sell a steering wheel invented by Dayton-Wright engineer Harvey D. Geyer, a former Wright Company employee. Geyer’s steering wheel used a new manufacturing process to produce a superior wheel. The product was so successful that GM formed a new division around it—the Inland Manufacturing Division. The division started in the original Wright Company buildings but quickly expanded.

As the plant grew, Inland added buildings and enclosed the spaces between Buildings 1, 2 and three newer buildings built in matching architectural style. The factory expanded over the decades as thousands of workers turned out auto parts, first as Inland, later as Delco and finally as Delphi. (During World War II, Inland produced M1 carbines, tank treads and other war matériel.)

The Delphi Home Avenue Plant grew to cover 54 acres with some 1.2 million square feet of manufacturing and office space in 20 buildings. Delphi’s bankruptcy led to the plant’s closure in 2008. As a part of the bankruptcy process Delphi formed DPH Holdings, LLC, charged with disposal of excess Delphi properties.

Site cleared for redevelopment

In 2009, Congress passed a law adding the 20-acre parcel that includes the original Wright Company buildings to the boundary of the National Park Service’s Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. Subsequently, the City of Dayton, with support from NAHA, successfully applied for a $3 million Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund grant to demolish all but the row of buildings connected to the Wright factory buildings and do environmental cleanup. Hull & Associates, Inc., an Ohio-based brownfields redevelopment company, formed a special purpose entity—Home Avenue Redevelopment, LLC—to buy the property from DPH and do the cleanup work. Additional funds came from DPH and Home Avenue Redevelopment. Demolition and remediation were complete in 2014.

Thank you for supporting our small, but mighty, team in becoming a top-five participating charity raising over $3,000.00! 

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