We spent the day absorbed in history.
I purchased combo tickets for $15 that gave us admittance to both Hawthorn Hill and Carillon Historic Park…saving us $5.00 over individual ticket prices.
We had reservations for the 10:00 am tour at Hawthorn Hill and were at the Carillon Historic Park visitors center about 10 minutes early. We were supposed to catch a shuttle to Hawthorn Hill but the tour had been oversold and we were asked to drive over separately.
Hawthorn Hill is the home that Wilbur and Orville Wright designed together with the intention of living there with their father, Milton and sister Katherine. Unfortunately, Wilbur died of typhoid fever in 1912 before ground was even broke. The home was completed in 1914, complete with Wilbur’s bedroom as planned.
Orville and Wilbur originally purchased 17 acres to build their home but over the years Orville sold off parcels (effectively picking his own neighbors) and the house now sits on 4 acres.
Orville and Wilbur were very methodical, symmetrical men and their home reflected that with its architecture. There was NO difference between the back of the house and the front of the house…they looked identical.
Orville was definitely a man of the future as he designed many ‘futuristic’ features in the house – a central vac system (in 1914!!) , a wrap around pinpoint jet shower (he had back problems after crashing one of the original plane designs) and a water storage tank that only he really knew how to operate.
We had an excellent tour guide with lots of history to relate. He told us stories of family gatherings at the house.
The house still has the original turn of the century electrical panel and Michael was pretty intrigued by it. Of course, it is no longer working but I could see his wheels turning.
When Orville died in 1948 and before anyone had a chance to move anything in the home, a photographer came in and took pictures of the home so that in the future they could be used as a reference.
When Orville died the house was bought by NCR (National Cash Register Corporation) and used as a guesthouse for corporate bigwigs and occasionally used for corporate functions.
NCR felt that Orville’s choice of decor was a bit dark and drab so they did quite a bit of remodeling (even adding a few bathrooms). The only room in the house that was left untouched was his study. Just viewing his study with his chair and ottoman in place is like stepping back in time.
In 2006, NCR donated the home to the Wright Family Foundation in honor or Orville’s 135th birthday. The Wright Family Foundation is slowly restoring the home back to what it looked like before Orville passed away.
Back at Carillon we hid out in the coolness of the truck and ate lunch…nothing fancy just some cheese, crackers, sausage, veggies & dip and grapes and strawberries.
As we ate lunch we were serenaded a couple of times by the bells of the Carillon. The Carillon was a dream of Edith Deeds, wife of Colonel Edward Deeds, one of Dayton’s most famous forefathers.
While traveling in Belgium Edith fell in love with the music of the carillon and once back home set her dream in motion. The Deeds Carillon was completed in 1942, is 151 feet tall and has 57 bells. Mrs. Deeds performed the very first concert on Easter Sunday of 1942.
After lunch we wandered through the various displays at the visitor center. The building is chock full of exhibits covering NCR (cash registers) and Dayton history. I could have spent a lot longer perusing the cash register display as it was very interesting and kind of a hands on trivia game.
One of the exhibits was a very cool animatronics show featuring Col. Edward Deeds, Charles F. Kettering, John H. Patterson and Orville and Wilbur Wright…oh and don’t forget Orville’s beloved St. Bernard, Scipio. There were several ‘surprise’ elements of the show and was well worth watching.
There’s even a huge room kinda dedicated to kids with a big carousel in the middle and then several smaller exhibits (soap box derby car, a toy car collection and more cash registers!) spread out around it. There was also a train engine that was set up to walk into…with a rope to clang the bell. Of course, my big kid was all about clanging that bell!
Outside there are roughly 25 buildings to wander through. They’re either set up to reflect the period or are mini museums of their own. The grounds are immaculately kept and walking between each is done on paved sidewalks.
There are characters in period costume in a few of the buildings. When we visited there were two ladies cooking over an open fire in the William Morris House (c. 1815). When we arrived one of them was churning butter and they had a dutch oven simmer with stew in it as well as some applesauce cooking away over the fire. They’d already made a pie and it just needed to be put in a dutch oven and baked.
In the print shop there was a young man doing a printing demonstration. Anything that is printed in the print shop is sold in the museum store and the prices that I saw were pretty reasonable.
There is a building dedicated to the Great Dayton Flood of 1913. The flood is Ohio’s greatest natural disaster causing roughly one hundred million dollars worth of property damage. More than 360 people died, 65,000 people were left homeless, 20,000 homes were destroyed and 1400 horses and 2,000 other domestic animals perished.
Another cool building to walk through was the Transportation Center which houses an old stage coach, a covered wagon, a trolley, a B&O Caboose and an old city bus among other things. Three of the vehicles were set up to allow visitors to walk through them which was pretty cool.
For many, the highlight of the park is the Aviation Center Building which houses a replica one of the Wright Brothers bicycle shops. As you walk through the building you learn more and more about these two remarkable men.
Of course, the true highlight is in the center of the building…the Wright Brothers 1905 flyers III, the world’s first flyer. Now a National Historic Landmark there is a park ranger on duty who will answer any questions broached. Michael, of course, had many so he and the ranger had quite a lengthy conversation while I snapped pictures.
It was a good day…we spent about 6 hours between Hawthorn Hill, lunch and Carillon Historic Park. Michael dubbed the place a ‘must see’ and I do think I’d have to agree.
We decided to grab dinner at the Fairborn Family Diner as it was ‘along the route’ and had decent Yelp reviews (4 stars out of 300 and some odd reviews).
Michael ordered a Turkey Manhattan and said it was good. I went with a Hamburger Club sandwich and really enjoyed it…got a little Thousand Island dressing on the side to go with it as it was a bit dry without.
We each had a cup of their home-made chicken pasta soup (chicken noodle soup) which was very tasty. Overall, we’d definitely go back and can see why the locals really dig the place.
Before going home we stopped at Sam’s club for a few items. When we renewed our membership while we were at the rally we were given a coupon book with several freebies in it as well as several really good deals.
We ended up going home with a FREE rotisserie chicken, 36 fresh-baked dinner rolls and a dozen fresh-baked croissants. Plus we got great deals on a package of ribeyes, a fresh pineapple (48 cents!) and 2 fresh-baked baguettes ($1.00). We now have more bread in the house than I know what to do with…it’s in the freezer, refrigerator and microwave!
We ended up getting home about 8:30 pm, put away the groceries and then relaxed for a while before heading to bed.