Hawthorne Hill, located in Oakwood, is the former home of Orville Wright, his father Milton and sister Katharine.
Photo: Lisa Powell
Photo: Lisa Powell

Dayton History now owns Wright Brothers mansion

After accepting responsibility for the home from the Dayton Foundation and the Wright Family Foundation, Dayton History will work to restore the Harman Avenue home to a more accurate representation of what the home was like when Orville Wright and the Wright family lived there, said Brady Kress, Dayton History president and chief executive.

Orville, brother to Wilbur Wright, lived at the home from 1914 until his death in January 1948. The Wright Brothers — famous worldwide for inventing and refining powered, pilot-directed flight — designed the home together. Wilbur Wright died in May 1912.

“The community will have a greater sense of the man Orville,” Kress said.

Dayton History has long conducted tours of the home in a “limited fashion,” and the home will not likely be more open to the public than it is today, he said. But the home has been used as a gathering site by representatives of groups as diverse as the United Nations, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, politicians, NATO and the Cub Scouts. That openness will not change, said Kress and Mike Parks, Dayton Foundation president.

In the past, neighbors and the city of Oakwood had expressed concerns that Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park ownership of the building might prove disruptive.

Parks told the Dayton Daily News in January that operating and maintaining the mansion on its 3.4 acres in a quiet Oakwood neighborhood had cost $130,000 to $180,000 a year, provided by the Wright Family Foundation and the national park. Those organizations will continue to support the mansion, as will a new endowment fund.

Kress said the $1 million endowment helped make leaders of Dayton History comfortable with taking on ownership of the home.

“We said, ‘OK, let’s pull the trigger on the ownership shift,’” Kress said.

“This is really kind of a best-of-both-worlds solution for the Dayton community,” Parks said.

The home will still be part of the national park, but it will not be owned by the park, Parks said. It became part of the park in 2009. NCR relinquished control of the home to the Wright Family Foundation in 2006.

Local ownership is seen as key to maintaining local control.

“Dayton History is a local organization,” Parks said. “You can call them on the phone. You can stop by and see them.”

The relationship with the national park will continue, and the park is supportive of this new direction, Parks said.

At a press conference at Hawthorn Hill on Thursday, Amanda Wright Lane, great-grandniece of the Wright Brothers, spoke emotionally of what the home meant to her family and the community and of what the future holds.

“We have accomplished so much together,” Wright Lane said of her family foundation and the Dayton Foundation.

The endowment fund has been spearheaded by a group of eight families and foundations called “Friends of Hawthorn Hill.” The two lead gifts came from the Jack and Sally Eichelberger Foundation and the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, Parks said.

The Wright Family Foundation is part of the Dayton Foundation.

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