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Dayton Aviation Sites

Date of Submission: 30/01/2008
Criteria: (ii)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
U.S. Department of the Interior
State, Province or Region:
Ref.: 5242

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Huffman Prairie Flying Field  84°4'16.229"W   39°48'28.067"N

Wright Cycle Company and Wright & Wright Printing  84°12'42.967"W   39°45'19.25"N          

Wright Hall  84°12'5.4"W   39°43'40.23"N

Hawthorn Hill  84°10'34.68"W   39°43'20.244"N

This proposed serial nomination includes the four above-named sites associated with the Wright Brothers' pioneering efforts in human flight, in and around the city of Dayton.  The first three components are part of Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park System, although Huffman Prairie is owned by the U.S. Air Force and Wright Hall by Dayton History.  Hawthorn Hill is owned by the Wright Family Foundation; there are plans to add the property to the park.

Huffman Prairie was a cow pasture when the Wrights began to use it in 1904 for test flights; it remains an open landscape.  The small 2-story brick building that housed the Wright Cycle Company and Wright and Wright Printing in 1895-97 today houses exhibits and National Park Service offices.  The Wright Flyer III, the first practical airplane, was tested at Huffman Prairie by the Wrights in 1905; it is enshrined in Wright Hall, a building constructed in the 1940s specifically to house it.  Hawthorn Hill, a 2-1/2 story brick mansion, was the primary residence of Orville Wright between 1914 and 1948.   

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

In 1905 in Dayton, Ohio, Orville and Wilbur Wright constructed and tested the Wright Flyer III, the first airplane that could take off, fly until it exhausted its fuel supply, land safely, and do so repeatedly.  The result turned the airplane into a practical reality that has, in just over a century, incalculably affected numerous aspects of human life.  The sites include one of the shops where their early experiments were conducted; the field where the first sustained and controlled flights took place; the most significant of their early aircraft; and the long-time home of Orville Wright that reflects his success and stature in the new field of aviation.  Together, these sites preserve critical evidence of events that have transformed the world.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Huffman Prairie retains the key elements of its historic appearance as pasture land when it was used for the Wrights' test flights, including its original boundary markers.

The Wright Cycle Company and Wright & Wright Printing Company building essentially retains its historic exterior appearance.  The first floor of the interior retains its original floor, but now accommodates exhibits and, on the second floor, National Park Service offices.

Wright Hall, containing the Wright Flyer III airplane, is a structure specifically built to house the plane, in an important early step to preserve the history of aviation.  The building is little altered.  The aircraft retains integrity of design and workmanship and about 85% of its original materials; Orville Wright himself supervised the restoration of the plane and the construction of Wright Hall. 

Hawthorn Hill retains its exterior appearance and setting and has been altered very little on the interior since Orville Wright's residence.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Wrights' first four flights, which were shorter, took place at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, a site now included in the National Park System as the Wright Brothers National Memorial.  This site was nominated by the United States in 1981, but withdrawn when ICOMOS recommended against its listing, primarily due to a perception of a loss of integrity at the site.  If and when a nomination of the Dayton sites is considered, the issue of whether Kitty Hawk might be included as part of the series will be reexamined.

There are no other sites associated with the Wrights' American contemporaries that retain a high enough degree of  integrity to be considered.  The site in Paris of Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont's first powered flight in Europe in 1906, a year after those at Huffman Prairie, is marked with a monument but is not preserved as an aviation site.   The most comparable intact early aviation sites in Europe are several associated with gliders, not powered craft.  The combination of site integrity with the significance of the technological achievement in Dayton in 1905 makes this group of sites exceptional.