Dayton Celebration Events

Tom Crouch received the Dayton Walk of Fame Award in a ceremony hosted by Wright-Dunbar, Inc. on September 29, 2006.

Crouch is senior curator of aeronautics at the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution and author of numerous books on the Wright brothers. His “The Bishop Boys,” is considered the best book about the Wright brothers. Some other great books either authored or co-authored by Crouch include, “A Dream of Wings,” “Wings, A History of Aviation from Kites to the Space Age,” and “Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Aerial Age.”

The award consists of a plaque that is embedded in the brick sidewalk along West Third Street where several dozen other plaques honor other Daytonians for their contributions both locally and nationally.

The immediate area includes the site of the last bicycle shop where the 1903 flyer was built (1127 West Third St.). Other printing and bicycle locations include a printing shop in the Hoover Block building at 1060 West Third, first printing shop at 1210 West Third, first bicycle shop site at 1005 West Third, and the second bicycle site at 1034 West Third.

Not far away is the Wright Cycle Co. on South Williams St., the Wright family home on Hawthorn St., and Orville’s Laboratory on North Broadway St.

The citation on the plaque states:

“Author, Historian, Museum Curator. His dedication to educating the nation about aviation history has helped to focus attention on the Wright brothers and Dayton. He authored several award winning books and developed national exhibits about aviation history as a senior curator at the Smithsonian Institution.”

Crouch earned a Ph.D. at Ohio State University.

In November 1909 the Wrights formed the Wright Company to manufacture their airplanes. They initially rented factory space in February 1910 while they built their own factory in a cornfield north of Dayton. It took about ten months to build their first building. Their new factory was used to build Wright airplanes until 1915, at which time Orville sold the company.

My friend Ed and I, while attending “Inventing Flight” in Dayton during the month of July, decided to find these two factory locations and determine what has happened to them.

We found the location of the rented building at the intersection of Miami Chapel Avenue and Wisconsin Boulevard in west Dayton. That was the good news. The bad news was that the building had been razed. In fact there were no buildings at that corner, not even a marker to serve as a tribute to what had once occurred there. The area is rundown, which may explain why.

The site can be reached from the Wright bicycle shop/residence location by following South Broadway St. approximately two miles south from West Third St.

The rented building at the time belonged to the Speedwell Motor Car Company. It was a brick building with a distinctive sawtooth roof. (Here are two views of the factory)

Speedwell was a prosperous growing company making automobiles until the great Dayton flood of 1913. The plant was flooded and they could not recover from the loss of equipment and inventory.

The site is significant in airplane history because the first mass produced airplane was manufactured here. The airplane was the Wright Model B.

This was the first model of airplane that the Wrights built that didn’t place the elevator in the front. It was a two-seat design with dual controls and utilized a wheel-and-skid design. It took three days to assemble. The engine was built at the Wright Bicycle Shop and transported to Speedwell building.

The dual controls were used at Huffman field for pilot training. The student pilots attending the Wright School of Aviation purchased many of the airplanes. The Model B airplanes were built in the 1910 and 1911 time period.

The Wright Model R airplane was also built at this location. The Model R was designed for racing and altitude competition. The Wright Exhibition Team based at Huffman Prairie set four world altitude records with this machine.

In November 1910 they moved to their new factory upon the completion of building 1. A second building was added a year later.

We found the buildings several miles north of the bicycle shop on West Third Street. The buildings now belong to General Motors Delphi.

The one-story buildings have a distinctive curved roofline similar to airplane hangers. The Wrights built two buildings. Three similar additional buildings were added later after the Wright Company went out of business.

The buildings are painted a bright white and can be easily seen just inside the entrance gate. We drove up to the guardhouse at the gate and confirmed from the guard that the buildings were indeed the original Wright factory buildings.

I asked the guard if I could take some pictures but was told no! I asked if he would check with his boss. He did, with the same answer.

We came back on Sunday and found no one at the gate. I took a number of pictures through the chainlink fence..

The first airplanes manufactured at the new factory were the Model EX, Model C and Model D. The rest of their models followed. They included the models CH, E, F, G, H, HS, K, and L along with their instruments and engines.

The Model L was the last airplane manufactured by the Wright Co. It was a biwing type with a fuselage and was powered with a single propeller in front of the airplane (tractor type).

Upon completion of building 2, the factory had the capacity to produce four airplanes per month, a capacity greater than that of any other airplane factory in the world at that time.

Plaques commemorating the factories exist somewhere for these buildings and the earlier rented factory. Aviation Trail, Inc. presented them to General Motors in 1983.

It is unfortunate that General Motors during the Inventing Flight celebration did not make available to the public these historic factory sites. Building 1 is located just inside the entrance gate and contains the office that Orville Wright once used. This is hallowed ground and desires better treatment.

Great News!

Amanda Wright, great-grandniece of Orville and Wilbur, was instrumental in getting included in a new parks bill, the Hawthorn Hill Home of the Wrights and the Wright factory buildings.

President Obama signed the bill on March 30, 2009.

References:

The Wright Co. Factory Boundary Assessment and Environmental Assessment. Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, Dayton, Ohio. The National Park Service. January 2006.

Dayton Daily News, March 31, 2009.

Orville flew for the first time over the City of Dayton on the occasion of the 1910 Dayton Industrial Exposition and Fall Festival.

The Exposition featured various means of transportation including bicycles, automobiles, and balloons. Orville agreed to fly on Thursday September 22.

On the appointed day thousands of people swamped Dayton, standing along the river banks, house tops and every other vantage point that could be found.

Here is an edited account as printed in the Dayton Daily News:

Orville Wright sailed over his home city Thursday in one of the most spectacular flights that has ever been made in aircraft.

A dense crowd had been fringing the river banks, the bridges and the roofs of high buildings for hours before it was rewarded with a glimpse of the bird man. When at last screaming factory whistles heralded the approach of the machine, the crowd along the river bank stirred and shook itself out like a mammoth pennant waving a tribute and greeting to the aviator.

People pointed and eyes were strained until everybody saw the tiny speck in the sky and watched it slowly grow into a semblance of shape. The aeroplane was so high that everybody in the city could see it equally well and it is safe to venture that not a person in the city failed to see it.

It was a glorious sight. There was a Dayton boy soaring for joy high above the little threads silvering in the sunlight.

Beneath him the earth, like a tapestry, brimmed up in a circle of misty purple distances.

There was something very significant and appropriate about the course of the flight along the Mad and Miami rivers.

Not so many years ago intrepid pioneer settlers followed those same streams and built the city’s first house on the river bank near the confluence of the two streams. The house is still standing snuggled down among massive structures that the sons of those pioneers have wrought.

That little cabin has had its modicum of surprises since the first tenant passed its portals. It has seen the forests go that had once obscured the skyline. Then its view was more permanently obscured by steep buildings and bridges.

And now on Thursday it witnessed the announcement of another inroad of progress, the very air above it had been conquered and it will soon have to peep at the stars through a fitting maze of aircrafts.

This latest era was ushered in more suspiciously than any of the others.

The forests went almost stealthily and the city sprang up in the night. The street cars began their clanging without any warning, but when this mysterious little speck appears in the sky, it is heralded by a medley of all the factory whistles, the street cars stop and the people use the buildings for stepping stones and steeples for theater seats from which to witness this new scene in the masque of the ages.

That little old log cabin has certainly seen some history made.

When the aeroplane was over the city the faint crackling staccato of its unmuffled motor like distant musketry, could be heard by some, and the aviator could be seen moving in the machine.

Cheers went up from the crowd all along the course, but it is doubtful if any sound reached Mr. Wright but the screaming factory and railway whistles. The factories had stilled their wheels and traffic had stopped to exhaust the power in tribute to their new helpmate.

It was a pretty little touch of sentiment and an inspiring one that sent the aviator circling over his boyhood home. There the dream was cradled and nourished through years of varying vicissitudes until the goal was at last achieved and it was cradled in the clouds.

The aviators are dear to all Dayton, but imagine the emotions of the little family to which the aviator sailed and circled a majestic curtsey from the sky. No wonder Orville Wright soared on a rising altitude upon his return trip.

He said Friday morning that he reached an altitude of 3500 feet by the time he reached the city limits on the outward bound flight.

He visited those exalted spaces that are reverently avoided even by the birds, where he is alone with the silence and sunlight and almost on intimate terms with the stars.

The aeroplane was followed into the city by a stream of hundreds of automobiles. The aviator passed most of them not far from the testing grounds on his return to Simms Station, also known as Huffman Prairie. The average speed of the best automobiles was 25 miles per hour, with the roads such as they are in the vicinity of the station. The aeroplane made the entire trip of 22 miles in a trifle less than 25 minutes.

The eyes of the admiring multitude were able to follow the machine upon its return trip almost till it was over the testing grounds. The machine had diminished to a flyspeck in the hazy distance before a smudge of factory smoke finally blotted it out.

The wind for the trip could hardly have been more than favorable for the flight. Mr. Wright estimated his speed at 50 miles an hour going westwardly and 30 miles an hour on the return trip. The average speed was thus 40 miles per hour.

The course as outlined by Mr. Wright was over the Miami River from the confluence of the Mad and Miami Rivers to the Third Street bridge, thence over Third Street to Williams Street, the area of their original home and bicycle shops, and from there to the Wright Home in Oakwood, over which he circled for the return.

At the start of the trip the altitude was 300 feet. This was increased to 2500 feet over and on the outward journey of 3500 feet was reached, after the machine had passed over the Exposition grounds and reached the city limits.

Mr. Wright describes Dayton as being more beautiful from the clouds than it is at a close view.

Not only interurban electrics and steam cars, but also many automobiles with pennants of cities in other states bore evidence that thousands of people visited Dayton on aviation day.

When they came so far and waited so patiently for the flight it is needless to say that the spirit caught them in the magnificent result and the captive balloon, “Hoosier,” which soared immediately after the aeroplane had disappeared, did a land office business.

Owing to the generosity and public spiritedness of Mr. Wright, aviation day was a success. Superlatives are exhausted in telling just how successful it really was. Though it is somewhat inappropriate to measure such an ethereal and splendid thing as an airship flight in dollars, the general public should realize that Mr. Wright donated Dayton an exhibition that would cost any other city a good many thousands of dollars.

There is also an element of risk about a 22-mile flight even in a perfected Wright machine.

The Exposition officials and the community as a whole are not unmindful of the Wright company’s munificence.

Though the thousands of people who swarmed to the testing grounds at Simms Station to witness the start of the flight probably did not get as thrilling an exhibition as those in the city, they were rewarded by a number of flights by Walter Brookins and a new pupil, while Mr. Wright was circling the city.

Mr. Wright circled the field a number of times also at an altitude of 300 feet before setting out on his straight-away course for the city. The machine in which he sailed to Dayton was started about ten minutes till five o’clock.

Owing to the advertising which the exposition received through Mr. Wright’s spectacular flight, management has received urgent and numerous requests to continue the festival another week. The streets were jammed Thursday night and hundreds were turned away from the Memorial building where the hippodrome show is being held. The committee has decided that aviation features shall distinguish the final day, when the exposition will wind up in a big revel, and arrangements for a number of other interesting events.

Two old farmhouses at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) stand as silent witnesses to early aviation history that occurred at nearby Huffman Prairie. Now known as the Arnold House and Foulois House, they were named after famous Air Force generals Henry A. “Hap” Arnold and Benjamin D. Foulois, who lived in those houses while serving at WPAFB. Both were taught to fly by Orville Wright.

It was my great-great grandfather Henry E. Hebble who built the houses. He was a bridge and house builder. Two covered bridges he also built in the 1800s are still standing. One spans the Yellow Springs Creek at Glen Haven, the nature preserve at Antioch College. The other spans Massies Creek near Xenia, Ohio

After he migrated from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1841, Henry E. Hebble built the house now known as the Arnold house (building 8) to be used as the family homestead. It is the oldest building on WPAFB.

The Foulois house (building 88) was built in 1874. None of the Hebble family lived in the house; it was rented out.

Both houses were eventually sold to the Miami Conservancy District and the land became a part of the Flood Plain for the Huffman Dam that was built after the great Dayton Flood in 1913.

In 1917, The Miami Conservancy District leased Huffman Prairie and the adjacent land (2,074 acres) to the Army creating Wilbur Wright Field. The area east of the Arnold and Foulois houses became Fairfield Aviation General Supply Depot.

The Springfield Pike that once ran by the two houses was relocated to its present site further east. The houses are located within a block of each other on Wright Ave. a little over a mile from Huffman Prairie.

Residents in the area traveled to and from Dayton using the Dayton-Springfield-Urbana (DSU) electric railway. They boarded the train at Simms Station adjacent to Huffman Prairie. Passengers sometimes referred to the letters “DSU” as meaning “dammed slow and uncertain.”

There is a group in Dayton that is raising money and working on plans to restore the railway from near the Dunbar house in Dayton to Huffman Prairie using a combination of trolleys and buses.

After the Army leased the land, twenty-four airplane hangers were constructed on a flight line close to the Foulois House.

In the mid 1920’s the Army started to look for a location to relocate because McCook Field, the engineering center located just north of downtown Dayton, was becoming too small for their needs. Dayton businessmen headed by NCR president Frederick Patterson quickly went into action to keep the Army in Dayton. They formed the Air Service Committee in 1924 to find a place locally for the Army.

The committee raised the money to purchase 4,500 acres of land that included Wilbur Wright Field (including the Arnold and Foulois houses) and Huffman Prairie. They sold the land to the army for $1.00. The Army named the acreage Wright Field.

In 1931 all of the land east of Huffman Dam (which included the Arnold and Foulois houses) was renamed Patterson Field in memory of Lt. Frank Stuart Patterson who died in a test flight in a DH-4 airplane over Wilbur Wright Field in 1918. He was the son of Frederick Patterson who had succeeded his father John H. Patterson as president of the NCR.

From 1929-1931, Major “Hap” Arnold lived in the first house that Hebble built. The house at the time was used to house the base commander. Orville was Arnold’s houseguest at his residence on the base on a number of occasions.

Arnold, a West Point graduate, learned to fly at the Wright Brothers flying school at Huffman Prairie. He soloed in 10 days after 28 flights totaling 3 hours and 48 minutes.

He went on to command the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II and became a five-star general.

When the Wright Memorial in Dayton was dedicated on August 19, 1940, Orville’s birthday, Arnold flew into Dayton for the occasion. In his comments he said, “This monument would stand as a shrine to aviation as the Plymouth Rock is to America.”

The Hebble house was dedicated as the Arnold house in honor of General “Hap” Arnold on May 16, 1986.

General Foulois played a critical role in the Wright Brothers’ history. He flew with Orville in 1909 as an official observer for a speed trial on July 30 to fulfill an Army requirement to qualify the Wright airplane.

The requirement was for the airplane to carry two people aloft for one hour at 40 mph. There was a $2500 bonus over the base price of $25,000 for each one mph the speed exceeded 40 mph. There was also a $2500 deduction to the base price for each one mph under 40 mph.

The route was from the parade ground at Ft. Myer, Va. to Shooters Hill five miles away at Alexandria, Va. and return. Shouters Hill is where the Masonic Temple now stands. The facility was under construction at the time of the flight.

Orville chose Lt. Foulois to fly with him as the official Army observer. He selected him because he liked Foulois for his avid interest in aviation. It also helped that he weighted less than 130 pounds and was an experienced map reader.

Foulois arrived for the flight with two stopwatches hung around his neck, a box compass strapped to his left thigh, an aneroid barometer strapped to his right thigh and a map on his belt.

The Flight was a success. Orville completed the ten-mile course at an average speed of 42.586 mph and earned a financial bonus of $5,000.

Foulois was eager to take flying lessons and was able to receive three lessons from Wilbur Wright at College Park, Maryland before he was reassigned to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, home of Signal Corps airplane #1. He successfully finished his instruction through correspondence with Wilbur and Orville. He liked to say he was the world’s first correspondence-school pilot. At the time he was the Army’s only active pilot.

He lived in the house that was to carry his name from June 1929 through July 1930 while serving as Chief of the Material Division, Wright Field. He subsequently rose to command of the U.S. Army Air Corps prior to World War II.

Both Foulois and Arnold played major roles in establishing the U.S. Air Force as a separate service and guided the early development of Military Air Power.

The Foulois house underwent a major renovation in 1986 and today serves as the home of the base commander.

Henry Hebble became a prominent citizen in the area and was running for county commissioner when he died from a heart attack. One of his sons, Zebulon Hebble, became mayor of Fairfield. The current Fairborn City building resides on Hebble St.

Residents of the two houses could watch the activities of the Wrights at Huffman Prairie during their development of a practical airplane during 1904-1905 and the further activities of the Wright Flying School, the Wright Exhibition team and the testing of airplanes built by the Wright Co. in 1910-1916.

Hebble Creek and Hebble Creek Rd form the southern boundary of Huffman Prairie, while the houses that Hebble built remain today as silent witnesses to aviation history.

Dayton, Ohio is continuing the momentum generated during the buildup for the Wright Brother’s centennial to promote Dayton as the birthplace of aviation. Dayton’s Aviation Heritage Foundation is developing a grand plan to showcase the Dayton region nationally and internationally.

Two major events have occurred that may add materially to the Wright brothers heritage now represented by nine historically regional sites.

One was the transfer of ownership of Hawthorn Hill, the Wrights’ home in Oakwood, to the Wright Family Foundation in 2006. The other is the bankruptcy of the Delphi Corporation that owns the Wright Co. two airplane factory buildings. The buildings may soon become available for inclusion in the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

The Wright home is a real gem and will be a wonderful addition to the park. The NCR Corp. purchased the home after Orville’s death in 1948 and has kept it in prime condition. Orville and the executives of NCR including John Patterson, founder, Edward Deeds and Charles Kettering were good friends.

The home has never been open to the general public. The home is located in a neighborhood of upscale beautiful homes in Oakwood. The neighborhood has never wanted the traffic, parking problems and noise that an open house would entail.

My wife and I have been in the home several times during Oakwood High School reunions as graduates and other occasions.

Amanda Wright Lane, great-grandniece of Orville and Wilbur, and her brother Stephen Wright, trustees of the Wright Family Foundation are involved in discussions that could result in the transfer of the home to federal ownership as part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

Lane and Stephen Wright, an Oakwood resident, have also been in discussions with the City of Oakwood and residents to develop a means to preserve the ambiance of the neighborhood and still open the house to the public. One procedure would be to require small groups of visitors to buy round trip tickets at the Carillon Historic Park and take a shuttle to Hawthorne Hill and return. This procedure will start this spring as a trial.

The other historical jewel is the two Wright Airplane buildings located on Delphi property a number of blocks west of the bicycle shop in West Dayton. The buildings were built in 1909/1910 and are still in active use by Delphi Corp. As such they have not been open to the public. I was not even permitted to take a picture of the buildings from outside the fence line.

Delphi, an automotive parts maker, is now in bankruptcy. It lost $5.5 billion in 2006. The two Wright buildings occupy about 10% of the 67-acre Delphi property.

It is hoped that Delphi will make the Wright buildings available for inclusion in the Aviation Park as part of the bankruptcy settlement.

Draft legislation is being proposed for consideration by Congress to include both the Wright home and the factory building in the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. The Dayton-based Aviation Heritage Foundation was created by Congress in 2004 to promote nine regional sites as a National Aviation Heritage Area.

These sites are independently operated and are a diverse mix including the National Aviation Park, the National Museum of the U.S. air Force, the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio and the Wright B Flyer Museum at The Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport in Miamisburg.

The National Park Service owns part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage Park and cooperated with partners that own other portions.

The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical park is also planning to nominate a collection of Wright brothers sites to the U.S. Department of Interior for consideration as a Nationally significant historic site. The site nominated include: Huffman Prairie, a Wright brother’s bike shop now in the national park; Hawthorn Hill, and the Wright Flyer B now displayed at Carillon Historical Park.

The timing may be just right. The President’s 2008 budget includes a big boost in funding for national parks, $2.4 next year. On top of that President Bush wants the federal government to match philanthropic donations each year, up to $100 million.

Note: In an other matter, the February 2, 2007 issue of the News & Observer reported that some folks in North Carolina want to change the “First in Flight” design on state license plates to another “smart and attractive design that would help remind everyone what a special place this is.”