- Lauren Rinehart Contributing Writer
Oakwood might be the mansion capital of the Greater Dayton Area, but there’s one mansion that truly stands out from the rest: Hawthorn Hill, built by Orville Wright of the famous Wright Brothers.
This shining beacon of Colonial Revival architecture sits atop a picturesque hill in one of the first populated areas of Oakwood. Other than being a huge, gorgeous building, there are so many cool things to know about this place.
This isn’t the first Hawthorn home the Wright family lived in.
They grew up in West Dayton at 7 Hawthorn Street. Hawthorn Hill got its name from the abundance of Hawthorn trees on the property. The mansion is open year-round for tours, but 7 Hawthorn Street is no longer on Hawthorn Street – though it still sits on Dayton soil. Henry Ford purchased both 7 Hawthorn Street and the Wright Cycle Shop and installed both buildings in Dearborn, Michigan, making sure to put several feet of Hawthorn Street dirt beneath them so that they will always stand on Dayton soil.
Hawthorn Hill had central vacuum system.
The whole-home vaccum system could connect to any room, and the motor was housed in the basement. The housekeeper could connect vacuum hoses to special outlets in the floor or walls to vacuum the whole house without carrying a portable vacuum up and down stairs. Despite the convenience, their housekeeper hated using it.
Oakwood used to be rural.
These days, Oakwood has plenty of houses and residents. But when the Wrights were looking for land, Oakwood was considered rural with very few homes. They bought 17 acres out in the country – in fact, it was so remote that it took 30 minutes to get to Oakwood from downtown Dayton by street car.
The Wrights had neighbors.
They did have some neighbors, including the Greens, who purchased the Dayton Cracker Company and were encouraged by local grocers to expand their line of crackers. After expanding, their new favorite was a toasty, cheesy cracker. After selling the bakery to Sunshine, these crackers became the Cheez-Its we know and love today. Two inventive families, living a mere stone's throw from one another!
It was eventually purchased by NCR.
After Orville's death in 1948, NCR purchased Hawthorn Hill and refurnished every room except for Orville's library, which they left untouched to honor Orville's memory. In this room, he outfitted a chair to feature a book-holding apparatus, as well as an ottoman to lean a certain way to help alleviate his sciatica. Visitors can also still see the worn spot on the carpet where Orville would slide his shoe back and forth to help lessen his pain. The clock on the shelf is always set to the same time – the hour of Orville's passing.
Want to go?
WHAT: Hawthorn Hill
WHERE: 107 Harman Avenue, Dayton; tours start at Carrillon Park, 1000 Carrillon Blvd., Dayton
HOURS: 10 a.m. & 12:30 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday
COST: $12/non-members, $10/members, $15/Hawthorn Hill & Carrillon Park combined admission
INFO: 937-293-2841 or http://www.daytonhistory.org