The Wright Company Factory
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“The Wright Brothers created the single greatest cultural force since the invention of writing. The airplane became the first World Wide Web, bringing people, languages, ideas, and values together.”—Bill Gates, 1999
The Wright Company factory is closed to the public now except for special tours once a month. But work is underway to open it to visitors as a unit of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.
The factory is located on the former Delphi Home Avenue plant in Dayton, Ohio. The Wright Company factory was the first in America built for the purpose of manufacturing airplanes. Once restored and open to the public, the factory will complete the story of the Wright brothers’ invention, development and commercialization of the airplane in Dayton.
Wright Company formed in 1909
Wilbur Wright (1867-1912) and his brother Orville (1871-1948) built their first experimental airplanes in the back of their bicycle shop at 1127 W. Third St. They formed the Wright Company in November 1909. The company operated briefly in rented space until Building 1 was completed in 1910. Building 2 was erected in 1911.
The Wright Company produced approximately 120 airplanes in 13 different models. It introduced industrial aviation to several individuals who later became aviation leaders. Among them were Frank H. Russell (1878–1947) and Grover C. Loening (1888–1976). Orville sold his interest in the company in 1915, following Wilbur’s death in 1912.
The Wright Company buildings changed hands several times. The Dayton-Wright Airplane Company bought the buildings during World War I and named them Plant 3. It used them to make fittings for military aircraft that Dayton-Wright produced at its main plant in Moraine.
Airplanes to steering wheels
General Motors acquired Dayton-Wright in September of 1919, but GM didn’t stay in the airplane business. In 1922, GM began to sell a steering wheel invented by Dayton-Wright engineer Harvey D. Geyer, a former Wright Company employee. Geyer’s steering wheel used a new manufacturing process to produce a superior wheel. The product was so successful that GM formed a new division around it—the Inland Manufacturing Division. The division started in the original Wright Company buildings but quickly expanded.
As the plant grew, Inland added buildings and enclosed the spaces between Buildings 1, 2 and three newer buildings built in matching architectural style. The factory expanded over the decades as thousands of workers turned out auto parts, first as Inland, later as Delco and finally as Delphi. (During World War II, Inland produced M1 carbines, tank treads and other war matériel.)
The Delphi Home Avenue Plant grew to cover 54 acres with some 1.2 million square feet of manufacturing and office space in 20 buildings. Delphi’s bankruptcy led to the plant’s closure in 2008. As a part of the bankruptcy process Delphi formed DPH Holdings, LLC, charged with disposal of excess Delphi properties.
A national park
In 2009, Congress passed a law adding the 20-acre parcel that includes the original Wright Company buildings to the boundary of the National Park Service’s Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. Subsequently, the City of Dayton, with support from NAHA, successfully applied for a $3 million Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund grant to demolish all but the row of buildings connected to the Wright factory buildings and do environmental cleanup. Hull & Associates, Inc., an Ohio-based brownfields redevelopment company, formed a special purpose entity—Home Avenue Redevelopment, LLC—to buy the property from DPH and do the cleanup work. Additional funds came from DPH and Home Avenue Redevelopment. Demolition and remediation were complete in 2014.
NAHA is negotiating with Home Avenue Redevelopment to acquire the entire site. Its goal is to make the original factory buildings a unit of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and guide the redevelopment of the remaining property with complementary activities.
The Dayton Metro Library has committed to become the first new occupant, buying seven acres at U.S. 35 and Abbey Avenue for its new West Branch library. The Fiscal Year 2017 budget submitted to Congress included $450,000 for the National Park Service to acquire the two Wright buildings. In 2016, the Ohio General Assembly approved $1 million in state capital funds to be used for acquisition and improvements. The City of Dayton has committed $500,000 to the project. NAHA is also raising private funds.
While the factory is closed to the public, you can get a sneak peek. NAHA offers free tours of the factory buildings with the permission of the property owner, Home Avenue Redevelopment. The next tour is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 at 10 a.m.
The factory entrance is off West Third Street just east of Abbey Avenue. The gate has no specific address, but GPS users can find it by navigating to 2807 W. Third St., Dayton OH 45417.
We encourage visitors to post photos and videos to their social media. Please include the hashtag #wrightfactory . Also, you may use the short url http://bit.ly/WrightCo to link to this page.
Please contact us if you have questions.
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Updated 15 September 2016