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Dayton Aviation National Historical Park


Dayton Aviation National Historical Park

courtesy of the Library of Congress

History of the Park

When most people think of the Wright Brothers, they think of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where Orville made his historic flight on December 17, 1903. The 428-acre Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills commemorates the achievements of the two brothers with exhibits and reproductions of the 1902 glider and the 1903 flying machine, camp buildings, workshops, and a 60-foot granite monument.

A much more recent addition to the National Park System, the 86-acre Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, preserves some of the aviation heritage associated with Wilbur and Orville Wright both before and after the famous 1903 flight. It also honors the life and work of Paul Laurence Dunbar, a recognized African-American poet and writer, and friend and classmate of the Wrights.

The development of the park was due in large part to a successful grassroots effort that grew from the work of Aviation Trail Inc., a local non-profit organization established in 1981 to preserve and promote Dayton's unusual aviation heritage. Later, a National Park Service study of some of these historic properties resulted in their designation as national historic landmarks. Today the park is a partnership among federal, state, and local governments and the private sector to preserve and interpret the historic structures and districts associated with this area. The park consists of four sites: 1) the Wright Cycle Company Complex; 2) the Paul Laurence Dunbar House; 3) the Huffman Prairie Flying Field and Interpretive Center; and 4) Dayton History at Carillon Park.

The Wright Cycle Company Complex includes the Wright Cycle Company building, a national historic landmark, where Wilbur and Orville Wright operated a bicycle shop from 1895 to 1897. Located adjacently to the building is the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center (restored Hoover Block), where the Wright Brothers operated a job printing business from 1890 to 1895, and the Aviation Trail Visitor Center and Museum;

The Dunbar House, also a national historic landmark, is the restored home bought by Paul Laurence Dunbar for his mother in 1904, and lived in with her until his death in 1906. Dunbar published 21 books during his short life -- he died at age 33.

The Huffman Prairie Flying Field, also a national historic landmark, is located within Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and is the area of the Wrights' hangar, landing field, and later their school of aviation.

The final component of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park is Carillon Historical Park, which features the 1905 Wright Flyer III (a national historic landmark) along with thousands of artifacts representing the history of the Miami Valley, including antique automobiles, trains, and bicycles.

How to Get to the Dayton Aviation National Historical Park:

The four park sites are located throughout Dayton, Ohio. You should start your visit at either The Wright Cycle Company Complex or the Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center. Once arriving at one of the interpretive centers, you can receive directions to the other sites.

The Wright Cycle Company Complex is located west of downtown Dayton. From I-75 take the Third Street exit (Exit 53) and head west. Turn left onto Williams Street. The park is immediately on your left at 16 South Williams. The Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center is located near the National Museum of the United States Air Force; at the intersection of State Route 444 and Kauffman Road. 2380 Memorial Road, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Things to Do at the Park:

The Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center and Aviation Trail Visitor Center and Museum hosts an orientation movie, a restored Wright brothers' print shop, and exhibits operated by the National Park Service. Ranger-guided tours of the restored Wright Cycle Company building are available upon request.

Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center offers an orientation movie and exhibits on the Wright brothers' continuing experiments at the flying field, as well as advancements in aviation technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force base. Self-guiding facilities are available at Huffman Prairie Flying Field. Both sites offer ranger-guided tours. If you only have an hour, it is recommended that you take a ranger-guided tour of the Wright-Dunbar Village or the Huffman Prairie Flying Field.

Contact the Park:

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
16 S Williams St
Dayton, OH 45402
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