When national parks are mentioned what comes to mind? Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, or the Great Smokey Mountains maybe?
What about Dayton's very own national park?
Yep, we do have one here and it's a dandy. And, while the nation celebrates the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, now is the perfect time to schedule your visit to the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.
But first a little history lesson.
The Organic Act of 1916 created the National Park Service "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."
Jump to the 1980’s when a group of aviation enthusiasts thought hey, what about a national park in Dayton? After all we are the home of the world renowned Wright Brothers and their childhood friend poet laureate Paul Laurence Dunbar.
One problem though, most of the evidence that Orville and Wilbur lived and worked here were gone. The cycle shop, boyhood home and 1903 airplane were relocated years earlier. Dismantled and erected at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. respectively.
Much of the Dayton neighborhood where Orville and Wilbur Wright had lived and worked had already been destroyed by the 1970s. Neglect, riots during the 1960s, and a highway project through the city had leveled much of the neighborhood.
But one of the early cycle shops on Williams Street, where the Wrights began their early flight research and sold bicycles to fund their aviation endeavors, and the building next door which housed the brothers print shop were still relatively intact.
And the cherry on top was Orville donated his Wright Flyer III to his friend Colonel Edward Deeds’ Carillon Historical Park. The plane is displayed here as part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and is the only plane in the nation designated as a National Historic Landmark.
1992 was the year the U.S. Congress made it official passing legislation to establish the new park. President George H.W. Bush signed the bill which created the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park into law.
The current five sites of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park include:
- The Wright Cycle Company Complex in Dayton, which includes the Wright Cycle Company building, the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center and the Aviation Trail Visitor Center and Museum
- Huffman Prairie Flying Field and the Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center.
- The Wright Brothers Aviation Center at Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, operated by Dayton History
- The Paul Laurence Dunbar State Memorial in Dayton, operated by Dayton History on behalf of the Ohio Historical Society
- And Hawthorn Hill, the 1914-1948 residence of Orville Wright, located just south of Dayton in Oakwood.
I encourage you to take a day or more and explore our national park, the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, a first class amenity enjoyed by tens of thousands of locals and visitors alike each year. Bring the family and your out-of-town guests. You’ll learn a lot and burst with pride showing off.
Happy 100th National Park Service. We’re glad you’re here in Dayton!
For more visit www.nps.gov/daav/index.htm