John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth. Neil Armstrong was the first American to step foot on the moon. Both were Ohioans.
The Buckeye State's love affair with flight doesn't stop there. Before astronauts, Orville and Wilbur Wright, known together as the Wright brothers, were Dayton natives and are generally credited with inventing flight. Their efforts subsequently paved the way for the future of aviation, allowing the John Glenns and Neil Armstrongs of the world to dramatically extend humanity's reach far beyond Earth's soil.
Basically, Ohio has been the birthplace of a lot of aviation pioneers (it's even on the back of our the quarter). Because of this, traveling to historic locations related to those skyward sailors is a relatively short affair for Cincinnatians.
As Cincinnati Refined, we enjoy seeing notable old properties. West Chester is more or less halfway to Dayton, so we'd be remiss if we didn't make the hour drive north to visit the historic home of one of the progenitors of air travel.
THE WRIGHT WAY OF LIVING
Orville and Wilbur lived with their dad and sister when they invented flying. Naturally, they became wealthy soon thereafter and elected to erect a new mansion to house their four-piece family (neither brother married). Oakwood, a suburb of Dayton, proved to be an adequate spot. They hired Dayton architectural firm Schenck & Williams to design the building, and construction began in 1912. They named it "Hawthorn Hill" as a nod to the abundance of hawthorn trees that speckled the landscape around the area.
Sadly, Wilbur contracted typhoid fever and passed away weeks before breaking ground. Orville, undeterred by tragedy, moved forward with their plan to build the $40,000 house. After two years of construction, Orville, his sister, and his father moved into their new home.
It had all the modern amenities of the time: electricity, heat, plumbing, and everything else you'd expect in a house for a man with money. Unique creations, such as a central vacuuming system, were added to the house. Hawthorn Hill was built to be both a stately manor of the early 20th century as well as an extension of the brilliant mind of the inventor who commissioned its construction.
And, of course, the house became the waypoint for famous capitalists and public figures of the time. Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison were among Orville's most prominent visitors.
INTO THE RIGHT HANDS
When Orville passed away in 1948, the house was bought by the National Cash Register Company (NCR). They refurnished it for use as a corporate guest house but left Orville's study alone as homage to the man who built the home.
Nearly 60 years later, NCR gifted the home to The Wright Family Foundation and it was added to the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. In 2013, Dayton History assumed ownership and began a years-long process of returning the home to its original look based on photos taken of the house in 1948.
Today, you can visit Hawthorn Hill at Carillion Historical Park by way of a small shuttle that brings you to the estate.
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To visit this incredible historical property, head to 1000 Carillon Boulevard, Dayton, OH 45409. Tours are given on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10:00 AM and 12:30 PM. Advance pre-paid admission is required. For more info, click here.