Filled with numerous museums, Dayton is clearly a history enthusiast’s dream. And that’s no more evident than in the homage the city pays to brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright. This summer, there’s even more to experience: Orville Wright called Oakwood’s Hawthorn Hill estate home for more than 30 years. Thanks to a partnership between the Wright Family Foundation and Dayton’s historical society, the mansion is now open to the public. One half of the world-famous aeronautical duo who made Dayton the birthplace of aviation, Wright led a life of innovation and intrigue, and the estate provides both flight fanatics and history buffs with the opportunity to closely examine the inventor’s fascinating story and unquestionable influence.
Throughout Wright’s years at Hawthorn Hill, a host of global dignitaries came calling: Charles Lindbergh stopped by after his solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited during a trip to Ohio. If the walls could talk, they’d likely repeat stories that would astound and inspire. Now, Ohio residents can explore these stories for themselves.
“You get to find out more about the man behind the airplane,” tour guide Daniel Schlegel Jr., says. “He had so many interests. Since the home has remained almost exactly as it was after Orville’s death, tourgoers really get to see how he led his life.”
A focal point of the tour is the study, which is almost completely original, even down to the rug. “It’s so amazing to see Orville’s study exactly as he last left it,” Schlegel says.
Original furniture and artifacts fill the rest of the homestead. Visitors have occasionally been known to encounter a “cockroach” on the dining room table, patterned after a trick Orville liked to use on guests. “He was a huge practical jokester,” Schlegel explains, “who was more than just some guy who invented the airplane.
“He was,” the tour guide explains, “very much just like the guy next door.”
Hawthorn Hill is located at 1000 Carillon Blvd., Dayton, OH 45409. For more information, call 937/293-2841 or visit www.daytonhistory.org