National fundraising campaign for Wright Company factory site to be studied

DAYTON, Ohio — The National Aviation Heritage Alliance will commission a feasibility study to evaluate the potential for a national fundraising campaign for the Wright Company factory site.

The goal of the fundraising campaign would be to secure the historic Wright Company buildings for future use as a unit of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and identify compatible uses for the surrounding 20-acre historic parcel, which includes three attached structures that match the architectural style of the original Wright buildings, according to NAHA officials.

This is a conceptual illustration of how the Wright Company factory might look when restored as a National Park unit. Image: National Aviation Heritage Area (NAHA)

This is a conceptual illustration of how the Wright Company factory might look when restored.

The feasibility study is a part of a new, five-year strategic plan NAHA’s board of trustees approved at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 11.

“The new strategic plan restates the commitment of our heritage partners to work together to preserve and promote our individual sites as well as the national treasures in the Heritage Area overall,” said Frank Winslow, chair of NAHA’s board of trustees.

NAHA envisions a range of potential uses for the historic parcel that would be compatible with the Wright buildings as a national park site. Some examples are science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education programs, aviation education and training, aerospace research and possibly light aircraft or high-tech aerospace manufacturing.

The study also will evaluate the feasibility of acquiring the remaining 34 acres that make up the former Delphi Home Avenue automotive plant for commercial or industrial development.

“These adjacent parcels would be especially suited to an aviation or aerospace manufacturer that sees value in tieing its brand to the birthplace of America’s aerospace industry,” said Tony Sculimbrene, NAHA’s executive director.

Wilbur and Orville Wright formed the Wright Company in November 1909. The company built the two single-story, brick factory buildings in 1910 and 1911 to produce airplanes for military, commercial and private use.

The National Park Service has identified the buildings as the first structures in America built for the purpose of producing aircraft. Restored as a national park unit open to the public, the factory would complete the story of the Wright brothers’ invention, development and commercialization of the airplane in and around Dayton.

Demolition of the old Delphi manufacturing buildings has progressed rapidly over the past year, and the site’s owner, Home Avenue Redevelopment, expects demolition to be complete by the end of June, around the time the feasibility study will be complete.

“We are extremely fortunate to be working with a redevelopment company that recognizes and appreciates the historic value of these buildings,” Winslow said.

The National Aviation Heritage Alliance (NAHA) is a private, not-for-profit corporation designated by Congress as the management entity of the National Aviation Heritage Area. NAHA’s vision is for the Heritage Area to be the recognized center of aviation heritage tourism and aerospace innovation, sustaining the legacy of the Wright Brothers. The National Aviation Heritage Area is one of 49 National Heritage Areas in a program administered by the National Park Service. It encompasses eight Ohio counties — Montgomery, Greene, Miami, Clark, Warren, Champaign, Shelby and Auglaize.

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