City, aviation group to preserve, develop Wright Brothers factory site

Millions in investment could help turn world’s oldest airplane factory into cultural site with tours, trails, near new library

A partnership between the city of Dayton and the National Aviation Heritage Alliance seeks to create a new public cultural facility at the historic Wright brothers airplane factory site in West Dayton, which is soon expected to see millions of dollars in new investment.

“Dayton has a vested interest in the preservation and redevelopment of the Wright factory site, as well as a commitment to creating an outdoor community space for residents,” said Veronica Morris, Dayton’s economic development team leader.



The National Aviation Heritage Alliance has been awarded more than $1.4 million in state capital grants to preserve the site of the oldest airplane factory in the world.

The alliance must partner with a government or nonprofit organization to access the state funding, which is administered by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission.

The 54-acre former Delphi property, home to the Wright company hangars, is located between West Third Street and U.S. 35, east of Abbey Avenue.

As part of its partnership with the city, the National Aviation Heritage Alliance has agreed to conduct cultural activities at the site, such as tours of the historic and original aircraft manufacturing buildings, known as hangers 1 and 2, said Morris.

The state funds will be used to stabilize the historic hangars, which will include demolishing some interior walls and removing debris like abandoned equipment, furniture and building materials, Morris said.

The funding also will be used to demolish building 17 and a security guard station and remove the debris, she said. Mechanical units and piping will be taken off the rooftops of the hangars.

Hangars 3, 4 and 5 are not historic, and will be marketed as development sites, Morris said.

The city also has approved using $800,000 of its Community Development Block Grant Cares Act funds to create new outdoor recreational trails.

A new walking path will be constructed on a southeast portion of the site that is adjacent to and connects with the new $12.5 million West Branch Library, which opened in February.

“We are going to be the government sponsoring organization and receive those state capital dollars, in partnership with NAHA, to essentially do the stabilization work that is necessary, as well as start to create the outdoor recreation trails,” said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.

Dickstein said this is an important catalytic project, and the city also plans to invest about $3.8 million of its federal rescue funds into the site for infrastructure improvements. The city was awarded $138 million from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The funds are expected to be used to upgrade sidewalks, roads and utilities, which will help transform the site into a community anchor, Mackensie Wittmer, executive director of the National Aviation Heritage Area, previously said.

City officials say they hope that stabilizing and beautifying the property with new green space, lighting and recreational amenities will spark interest from developers. The city wants to help lay the groundwork to create a thriving, walkable campus.

The hangars were part of the former Delphi Home Avenue automotive complex, which closed years ago. Many of Delphi’s industrial buildings were knocked down.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Dayton approved purchasing the Delphi property in 2018, and the Wright Co. factory was placed on the National Register of Historic Places the following year.

The Wright Co. factory buildings, which operated between 1910 and 1916, are significant because they were the birthplace of the American aviation industry, according to the National Park Service.

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