Our original plan was to visit the Wright Bicycle Workshop and then head over to the National Museum of the US Air Force but things didn’t work out that way. The area where the workshop is located is surrounded by period homes, some renovated others crumbling into ruin. And I’m drawn to urban decay like a moth to a flame plus my friend Michael is into architecture and most of this stuff was very good examples of turn of the century homes.
The workshop has been restored by the US Parks Service. Including new leather belts in the drive system for the drill press(built by the Wrights because they couldn’t afford to buy a new one) and lathe. Of course current workers safety rules preclude them ever running again as there’s not a safety guard in sight on any of it. Back then, smart workers survived and went on and bad ones lost bits of their body in the equipment.
The workshop is just part of the annex, the Park’s Service has basically purchased the old downtown and has spent years refurbishing the buildings.
The museum section covers their printing company and recreates a local grocery store of the day.
The mannequins in there try to start a conversation with you which is a tad creepy.
So we hit the museum first but were not in there five minutes before one of the park rangers informed us there was a tour starting of the bicycle shop. Over we went.
First impressions aside, you learn rather quickly that bikes of the day were every bit if not more expensive then as the current crop of two wheelers today.
An average cost was $100 which in 1903 wasn’t chump change. All of the joints were brazed (which explains some of the fittings on the Wright Flyer I’d noticed) and the bike tires on their top model were semi pneumatic on wooden rims. Everything looked surprisingly modern but then I guess form does follow function.
Rather than return to the museum directly, we decided to walk around and check out some of the refurbished homes and of course the derelict buildings.
We talked to a surveyor who was shooting the intersection by the abandoned gas station and he filled up in on some of the historical gaps the Park Service had sort of glossed over.
The area had flooded in 1913 and while it had come back, the action moved further to the west and south of the old downtown. However their walk of fame gives you a much greater understanding of the impact Dayton had on the burgeoning impact of science and industry. Cause at the turn of the century, Dayton was the place to be.
Five hours later we finally moved on from the Wright’s Bicycle shop and on to the Wright Memorial which is after the National Museum of the USAF (which looked pretty huge and awesome from the outside). The memorial itself is much smaller than the one at Kitty Hawk and didn’t get built until 1963. The accompanying Park Services building is also small but the highlight is that the whole thing sits on a hill overlooking one of the main runways at Wright Patterson. And we had a front row seat to a C-17 doing Circuits and Bumps (take offs and landings). Which was pretty cool.
We finished off the day at Easton Town Center in Columbus with dinner and a movie (The Tower Heist if you’re interested) and vowed we’d get an early start to the NMUSAF the next day.