Touring aviation history with a passport

Dayton-Aero-NHS-33I knew the National Historic Site was there, but I had never visited. And, I can’t explain why. But, with a day available for motorcycling, I decided it was time. Armed with my National Parks Passport, I headed to Dayton, Ohio, to the Wright Brothers Visitor’s Center to see where aviation as we know it all started.

Officially, it is the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center, just one of five sites in the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park. That’s how it is listed in the Passport and accompanying map of all parks and historic sites.

Most people know about Orville and Wilbur Wright and their efforts towards the first powered flight at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina. The Dunbar of the interpretive center is Paul Laurence Dunbar, an African American writer and poet known to the Wright Brothers. Dunbar and Orville Wright were in the same graduating class of Dayton Central High School, 1891, and the Wright Brothers published Dunbar’s newspaper in their print shop.

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The complex is in the historic section of Dayton on 3rd Street at South Williams. A 30-minute film provides a lot of information as a docu-drama detailing the efforts to build an airplane and then learn how to fly it.

The Wright Brothers operated several businesses, including a printing business and the bicycle shop. A park ranger said the restored Wright Cycle Co. building is the actual location and building number four of five locations they occupied. The Wright family home was just down the street on South Williams. The ranger also verified that the Wright family home and bicycle shop #5 are at the Greenfield Village, Henry Ford Museum in Michigan. Ford bought the buildings and moved them to his museum for preservation.

After touring the bicycle shop, I motorcycled to the Wright Brothers National Memorial near the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Also at the site is the Huffman Prairie interpretive site. The Wrights perfected their airplane using Huffman Prairie as their test site, and hence, it is officially the first airport.

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It was a great day for motorcycling. Get your own NPS Passport and start planning your adventures and destinations. Passports can be ordered online, or you can buy one at the many National Parks and get it stamped while you’re there.

See you on the highway.

Brent

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