Wright at Home, an immersive day at Hawthorn Hill — the Oakwood home of Orville Wright, his sister Katharine, and their father, Bishop Milton Wright — will be held Sunday, April 28.
The open house will feature interpreters in each room of the 1914 Georgian Revival-style mansion and a walking tour of the surrounding neighborhood led by the Oakwood Historical Society.
The Wright brothers’ great grandnephew Stephen Wright will be showing old family videos at Wright at Home this year.
Here are seven things to know about the historic mansion.
Illustrious visitors. Not only was Hawthorn Hill home to a world-renowned family, it was often visited by the movers and shakers of the time. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Charles Lindbergh were among the famous who came to the mansion.
Innovative design. An arm chair Orville Wright modified to suit his needs sits by a window in the library. Wright, who suffered from back and leg pain caused by a 1908 plane crash, drilled a hole in each arm that a book stand could fit into to make reading more comfortable. He angled the footstool to take pressure off his legs.
The home was outfitted with cutting edge gadgets. A central vacuum system, found in businesses and factories at the time but rarely in a home, was installed in 1912. According to Hawthorn Hill history, housekeeper Carrie Grumbach didn’t care to use the newfangled device.
Special water. Orville Wright was such a fan of mineral-free rain water that he designed his own cistern system. After the water went through a filtration system twice, it was kept in a holding tank in the basement. The clean water was pumped throughout the home. There are three faucets on the sinks – including one for water from the cistern.
It was a good story. In the past, visitors to Hawthorn Hill have been told Orville designed the unique shower contraption in his bathroom. Sorry, but that’s not true. The American Standard “needle shower” was installed to help Wright soothe his aching body. Originally, the plumbing fixture had four wraparound pipes from which jets of water shot. Though it’s not a Wright invention, it’s still a fascinating piece of early plumbing predominately found in the homes of the wealthy of that era.
A record breaking adaption. In the basement is a project the inventor never finished. Wright was attempting to convert a Victrola phonograph into a multi-record player. If you peek inside, you will see wood, wires and mechanisms left undone. Wright was testing 78 rpm records on his project, but they were brittle and often broke. Once he had gone through his record collection, he went to his niece, Ivonette Wright Miller, and asked if he could borrow hers.
The last bit of tinkering. Tucked behind the volumes on the lowest bookshelf in the library is the doorbell connected to the front door. Wright was tinkering with the buzzer connected to that bell on the day he suffered his second heart attack on Jan. 27, 1948. Witnesses that day said Orville was racing up and down steps between his basement workshop and the first floor while fixing the doorbell. He died at Miami Valley Hospital three days later.
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: Wright at Home: A Hawthorn Hill open house
WHERE: 901 Harman Ave., Oakwood
WHEN: Sunday, April 28, 2019 from noon - 5 p.m.
COST: Tickets are $25 the day of and $20 in advance for adults and Dayton History members. Tickets for children ages 4-12 are $5 and 3 and under are free.
Parking is available at the Oakwood Municipal Lot and along Park Avenue.
Reservations are required: (937) 293-2841
MORE INFO: If you can’t attend this special event, tours of Hawthorn Hill depart Carillon Historical Park via shuttle each Wednesday and Saturday at 10 a.m. and 12:30. Reservations must be made in advance and be prepaid.
The regular ticket price is $12 per person. A special combination ticket for admission to both Carillon Historical Park and Hawthorn Hill is available for $15 per person. Dayton History members receive a discounted ticket price of $10 per person. Call Guest Services for additional information or to make your reservations: (937) 293-2841.