Prior to 1896, this structure was a residence. The owner, Charles W. Webbert, remodeled the home during the winter of 1896/97, constructing the addition to the front for conversion of the residential structure to a commercial building. When the remodeling was completed, the Wright Brothers moved their Cycle business Wright Cycle Company, and their printing business Wright & Wright from 22 South Williams to the west half of this building (1127). The original pitched roof of the residence is visible on the west side as seen in the photo below the Sanborn maps. The vertical brick line bisecting the west (left) face of the building provides reference of the extent of the addition to the front of the original home.The east side, 1125, was occupied by the office of Fetters & Shank, undertakers and embalmers.
|1127 West Third Street, around 1910, rear of building, courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection..|
|View from rear, similar to 1910 photo above. Taken by Author at Greenfield Village, 2011.|
|Workshop located north (behind) of 1127 West Third. Postcard from Author's collection.|
The 1897 Dayton Directory listing reads "Wright Cycle Co. (Wilbur Wright & Orville Wright) bicycles, 1127 W. 3d. It also lists "Wright & Wright, (Wilbur & Orville) printers, 1127 W. 3d. The 1900 Dayton Directory lists only the Wright Cycle Co, as the brothers discontinued the printing business.(1) In Wright & Wright Printers, Charlotte and August Brunsman note that "In 1897 they moved both the bicycle and printing businesses to 1127 West Third Street....The printing office was in the southeast corner of the second floor with the printing shop in the room behind that." Edwin Sines was their printing agent, and "When Sines' injury to a lame knee in 1899 caused him to seek other employment, the printing business and equipment were sold to Thomas R. and Marion J. Stevens who operated "Stevens & Stevens," a printing company, at 1225 West Fifth Street. (2)
From Wright Reminiscences, compiled by Ivonette Wright Miller, Milton Wright (Ivonette's brother, Lorin Wright's son) said, "In the years before 1903, I spent whatever time I was allowed playing about my uncle's bicycle shop. The odor of the glue pot, the spruce shavings on the floor, and the many gadgets whose use I did not understand, were all a great attraction to a small boy. The matter of fact way in which my uncles used the gadgets and planed the spruce strips and glued them together into ribs for their "flying machine" left me with the impression that all bicycle shops did the same thing. It was all very commonplace."
Ivonette recalled "When we were growing up we lived about a city block from the bicycle shop. When my mother had an errand taking her downtown, and had one child she couldn't take with her, we were dropped off at the bicycle shop, and either Orville or Wilbur, or both, baby-sat with us. They were never too busy to entertain us, though there was much activity in the shop- motors being tested on the block, and wheels and belts running."
|From March 1911 Aeronautics issue, author's copy, The Wright Company, 1127 West Third Street.|
|From 1915 Steele H.S. yearbook, John Upshaw Tailor located at 303 West Third. John relocated to 1127 West Third in 1918. From author's library collection.|
The small narrow single story building to the east was replaced with a building addition to 1127/1125, and in 1913, Fred W Ritter Florist occupied the new section, address 1123 1/2. He remained in this space through 1921. The center 1125 section was occupied by West Side Electric Shoe Repair Company from 1915 through 1921. Albert H Pearson, Delicatessen occupied 1127, as did the office of Orville Wright at the second floor level in 1915. 1915 was the last year Orville leased space here; he moved to his newly constructed Lab at 15 North Broadway in 1916. Albert Pearson remained through 1917, and John Upshaw, Tailor occupied 1127 in 1918, 1919, and possibly 1920.(3)
The residence 1129 to the west, the east edge visible in photo above, was occupied by Z. T. Hoover and Mary Hoover, and their son-in-law Frank Hale and daughter Lura Hale. By the 1920 census, Frank is listed as head of household, as Z. T. had passed away. Frank B. Hale Fine Groceries (see ad earlier in this post) was located across the street to the east, corner of Williams and Third.
|1923 Press photo of 1127 West Third building, decorated for the 20th anniversary of first flight at Kitty Hawk.(13)|
Frank Hale and Lorin Wright served as two of the five members of the City Commission. Frank held title of mayor and served from 1922 through 1925, while Lorin Wright served on the City Commission from 1920 through 1927. Frank and Lura remained at 1129 West Third through 1926, and then moved to Auburndale Florida by 1927. The home remained vacant in 1927 until it was demolished and replaced with a two-story commercial building, which still stands today with current day address of 1135, but in 1928, the address was 1129. The 1928 Dayton Directory lists this building as occupied by Charles O. Johnson, real estate agent, and Stanley's Furniture Store.(4) By 1936, 1129 was occupied by The American Wall Paper & Paint Corporation, and Deuser's Inc Dry Cleaners. The building's apartments were occupied by Henry S Marshall and Ralph W Reynolds (at 1129 1/2). The photo below likely shows Orville Wright in 1927 as he observes the empty lot of 1129, as he faces the west side of 1127, the former Wright Cycle Company location. This would be the brief time period between the demolition of the Frank Hale residence and construction of the commercial building.
On the 25th anniversary of the Wright Brothers flight at Kitty Hawk, the Dayton Chamber of Commerce issued "The Shop That Became A Shrine". This eight page pamphlet tells the story of the Wright's inventive process, and of the shop on West Third Street. Dayton recognized the prior significance of this building in 1928, but the message of the pamphlet is confusing, in that on the one hand, the shop is labeled a shrine, but on the other hand, it is viewed as already gone from history. The author wrote, "From all accounts of the conversion of this shop on West Third Street in Dayton, Ohio, into an international shrine the two repairman who worked therein possessed some definite ideas of what they hoped to achieve long before that epochal flight along the wind-swept dunes of Kitty Hawk.....Even in this modern age flights with heavier-than-air machines were attempted. Without exception they failed until Orville and Wilbur Wright in the secret places of their bicycle repair shop in Dayton, Ohio, designed and finally emerged with a type of flying machine that, jeered at first, nevertheless furnished the basis for modern aeronautics.....We in Dayton know a little bit more about this invention of the airplane than most people, because it was born among us. Long years ago the little shop has passed into the scrap heap, but the product of its crude laboratory has filled the skies the world over.....It is a far cry back to that little crudely built bicycle shop in West Third Street, Dayton. Time has obliterated all marks of it. New structures have taken its place; and yet it has become hallowed in the history of the world. It is a Shrine today, made so by the acclaim of millions who upon the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first successful flight made by man in a heavier-than-air flying machine, pay tribute to Orville and Wilbur Wright, inventors and pilots of that craft which pointed the way to all that we have in the world of aviation at this moment."
From this pamphlet, the people of Dayton in 1928 were told that the little shop had passed into the scrap heap, time had obliterated all marks of it, and new structures had taken its place. Yet, there the Gem of Dayton remained at 1125/27 West Third Street, waiting for a man from Detroit to rescue it from a sleeping City.
|The Dayton Chamber of Commerce, "The Shop That Became A Shrine", December 17th, 1928, from author's collection.|
|In 1928, Time had not obliterated all marks of the West Third Wright Cycle Company. The Gem of Dayton would be preserved by Henry Ford within the decade.|
By 1936, the building was occupied by Harry Rubin, shoe repairer, in 1125; by Bela Darabos in 1125 1/2 (second floor apartment); William L Winbourne, barber, in 1127; Dayton Daily News branch supply station, also in 1127; and by Amelia Glatthaar in 1127 1/2 (second floor apartment). The 1123 1/2 space was vacant.(5)
|1125/1127 West Third Street, 1936, west side view of rear of building from roof of adjacent building, courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection.|
|Photo courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection, October 1936. The joint is apparent between original Building to the west, and addition to the east.|
Then, another Dayton article from July 12, 1936 "Bicycle Shop Not Only Building of Historical Interest" reads, "Just because Henry Ford has purchased the old bicycle shop on West Third street where Orville and Wilbur Wright built some of the parts for their first gliders and airplanes, Daytonians need not lament that there is nothing left which bears a distinct relationship to these two boys and their epochal achievement....First there is the house at 7 Hawthorne street where the Wright family lived for years....It was in this house that the boys planned and accomplished much of their early work....Close after the war, Orville built for himself the special laboratory at 15 North Broadway...One of the earliest remembrances of the Wright boys and their local experiments is the old hangar...still standing on the Huffman prairies......Orville insists that this is not the original hangar, that having disappeared, but it is one of the earliest, possibly the second."
The home was moved to Greenfield Village, the 15 North Broadway Lab was demolished, and the hangar fell into decay.
|Image of the Wright Hangar at Huffman Prairie, Oct 2-4, 1924 during the International Air Races held in Dayton. The restored 1903 Wright Flyer was on display within the hangar.(12)|
From the Dayton Journal October 28, 1936, Henry Ford and Edward Cutler walked the Wright Cycle Company building taking notes as Orville Wright "explained that a certain partition was not there originally....Mr. Cutler..was busy jotting down notes on changes as they were recalled by Mr. Wright. He is the man (Mr. Cutler), it was explained, who has general charge of all the restorations Mr. Ford makes when removing a famous birthplace or landmark to Greenfield village. Mr. Ford seemed very particular regarding the exactness of the dimensions. "I'll know within a couple of inches," Orville explained....Every window, every floor, every door came under the scrutiny of Mr. Ford, who persistently requested information as to whether this or that was the original or had been replaced later. Upstairs, Mr. Wright showed him the room in the rear where the boys painted and enameled bicycles they repaired. He explained that there was a gas oven there, but that electricity was something too new and expensive for them to enjoy. Even the stairway to the second floor came in for attention and correction. Mr. Wright said that originally it went up through what is now a closet and Mr. Ford indicated that when restored the stairway would be in its original place...Through the inside and all around the outside of the old bicycle shop the visitors were escorted by Mr. Wright. It seemed not a detail was overlooked." (Except concerning the two windows on the west face of the building- see comments on sixth photo below).
From the Dayton Journal, December 12, 1937, "Investigators for Mr. Ford found that the Wright Cycle company shop at 1127 West Third street underwent a number of changes during the years that the boys occupied it. It seemed logical, however, that the reconstructed shop should represent the now famous period of 1903, natal year of the first successful airplane."(10)
|Beginning of reconstruction of Wright Cycle Company 1937, Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan. Photo courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection.|
|Reconstruction of the Wright Cycle Company 1937, Greenfield Village. Basement construction underway, photo courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection.|
|Reconstruction of the Wright Cycle Company 1937, Greenfield Village. Storage of block and brick, rear of construction area, photo courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection.|
|Construction of Wright Cycle Shop, March of 1937, Greenfield Village. Photo courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection.|
From The Edison Institute Dedication of The Wright Brothers Home and Shop in Greenfield Village, "In 1936, largely through the efforts of the Early Birds, an organization of aviators who learned to fly before December 17, 1916, both the house at No. 7 Hawthorn Street and the shop at 1127 West Third Street were acquired by The Edison Institute and re-erected in Greenfield Village. There, on April 16, 1938, the 71st anniversary of Wilbur Wright's birth, these buildings were formally dedicated in honor of Orville Wright and in memory of Wilbur Wright."
|Wright Cycle Company, Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan, photo by author 2011.|
|Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan overhead Bing view of Wright Cycle Company and home.|
|Postcard mailed by son Wilbur to father Herbert Wright from Greenfield Village, the day of the dedication, April 16, 1938.|
|The Edison Institute Dedication of The Wright Brothers Home and Shop in Greenfield Village Dearborn, Michigan April Sixteenth Nineteen Hundred Thirty-Eight, 62 page booklet, authors' copy.|
|Sign at site of original location of the Wright Cycle Company, photo by author 2012.|
|1135 West Third Street, immediately to the west of former site of 1127 Wright Cycle Company, photo courtesy of Mongomery County GIS. This building can be seen in the 1936 photo of the Wright Cycle Shop earlier in this post.|
|Three photos by author of West Third Street Dayton Ohio combined in panoramic view, taken October of 2016, former location of Wright Cycle Company. Click on picture to enlarge view.|
Though the building has been relocated to Michigan, the original site on West Third Street where the building long stood is most definitely worth visiting. On these grounds the Wright Brothers manufactured bicycles, they experimented with their wind tunnel, they fine-tuned the science of aviation. Here is where the echos of their engine tests reverberated, and their loud discussions concerning the design of the propellers took place, where Wilbur always enjoyed a "Good Scrap" with his brother Orv.
|Rear view of former location of Wright Cycle Company from French Lane looking south, photo by author, October 2016.|
|Reproduction of the Wright Cycle Company at Carillon Park in Dayton, Ohio, photo by author, 2012.|
Additional Recommended Reading:
"Allowing the Bicycle Shop to go to Michigan", Ch 84 of Ohio Home of the Wright Brothers, Louis Chmiel, 2013.
Pictures of Ads added 11/10/16
The Shop That Became A Shrine, added 11/12/16
Correction to family group photo caption, 12/14/16
Wright 1911 Ad added 1/6/17
1887 and 1897 Sanborn maps, workshop postcard, Greenfield Village photo added 7/21/18
Minor revisions 8/29/18
Photo of Wright Hangar at Huffman Prairie added 11/22/18
Photo of Wright Cycle Shop 1923 added 2/27/19
1. I found an interesting entry in the 1902 Dayton Directory, apparently an occupant of the second floor apartment in this building- "East, Fred, blacksmith, res. 1127 West Third Street." In the 1913 Dayton Directory, it lists "Black Geo chauffeur rms 1127 W 3d.
2. The Other Career of Wilbur and Orville, Wright & Wright Printers, Charlotte K. and August E. Brunsman, 1988.
3. Information is from researching the 1910 through 1922 Dayton Directories. It appears the addition to the building was constructed in 1913 after the flood. Likely the flood destroyed the single story wood structure. The three tenants in this photo, John Upshaw Tailor, West Side Electric Shoe Repair, and Fred Ritter Florist, were all present only from 1918 through possibly 1920, thus the date of the photo around 1920. I was not able to access the 1920 Directory.
4. The Montgomery County GIS Commercial property data for 1135 West Third lists the building construction date as 1900. This is in error, and the likely date is 1927/1928.
5. From 1936 Dayton Directory.
6. From July 4, 1936 Dayton News article "Removal of Old Wright Laboratory From Dayton to Ford Museum Starts in 60 Days", from Wright Brothers scrapbook 1933-1939, Dayton Mont Co Library Genealogy Center.
7. I am not clear on when the changes were made to the rear of 1127/1125. It appears the wooden pitched roof structure in which the Wrights performed their aviation experiments was totally replaced by the flat roof two story wooden structures shown in the 1936 photos before 1920. My guess is nothing was left of the original, and that this portion of the building at Greenfield Village is therefore a reproduction. Anyone having more information, please contact me, and I'll revise this post.
8. From July 3, 1936 issue of The Detroit News, "Historic Wright Workshop Will be a Michigan Shrine", by James V. Piersol, aviation editor of The Detroit News, copyright, 1936.
10. "Home, History of Wright Bros. Preserved For Posterity by Efforts of Ford at Dearborn", by A. S. Kany, Journal Dec 12, 37.
11. Timothy Gaffney further writes "The original building...stands in Henry Ford's Greenfield Village...But its foundation still lies largely intact beneath the surface." Now, that is just plain cool!
12. This photo was recently offered on E-bay, misidentified as Wright Hangar at Kitty Hawk. I attempted to purchase it, but bid went over $125, beyond my budget.
13. Press photo from the Author's collection. Back of photo reads, "Wright Brothers honored on 20th anniversary of first airplane flight- Dayton, Ohio....Shown is the building here, which was used as a storehouse and factory by the Wright Brothers in 1903. It was here that Wilbur and Orville Wright constructed their first airplane, in which they made successful flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903. On the 20th anniversary of that epochal flight, the entire nation paid honor to the Wright Brothers for their achievements in pioneer aviation."
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