The Dayton-Wright Airplane Company was formed in 1917 by a group of Ohio investors including Charles Kettering and Edward Deeds of the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (DELCO). Orville Wright lent his name and served as consultant. The company received two government contracts to produce two types of planes for the World War I conflict: DeHavilland DH-4’s and the Jenny Standard SJ-1.
The main plant on the west side of Springboro Pike in Moraine manufactured 3,106 out of 4,846 DH-4 bombers, the only American built airplane to see action in WWI and was America’s first bomber. The DH-4 was powered by the famous Liberty Engine. Many of the DH-4’s were detained b y the government after the war and served as the mainstay for the fledgling U.S. Army Air Service during the 1920’s.
The Wright Seaplane Base is one of the first seaplane bases in the world. It is located at the bend of the Miami River between Moraine and West Carrollton.
After their famous 1902 flight, as Orville and Wilbur Wright developed their airplanes through the years, they began adding pontoons to their aircraft and created a hydro-aeroplane or seaplane. After Wilbur died in 1912, Orville continued to develop and fly airplanes. Orville would tow the seaplane in two separate sections and assemble them on the banks of the river in the Miami Shores area of Moraine. Orville can be seen in Photo #3 standing knee deep in the river making final adjustments to the seaplane. Orville made over 100 flights in 1913 and 1914 often with passengers in the Wright Model C-H hydro-aeroplane. This area of the river had three advantages: (1) deep water (2) freedom from man-made obstructions (3) ability to take off and land east-west or north-south depending on the prevailing winds.
In 1914, the improved Model G Aeroboat had a solid hull or fuselage with a semi-enclosed cockpit. The aircraft was 28 feet long, a wingspan of 38 feet and weighed 1,250 pounds. Powered by two rear-mounted engines and propelled by twin pusher propellers, the seaplane had a top speed of 60 miles per hour.
A Moraine Historical Marker for the “Wright Seaplane Base” is located at the eastbound side of the Main Street Bridge and an Ohio Historical Marker is erected along the Miami Valley Recreational Trail bikepath just south of the bridge.
This new Moraine Historical Marker was dedicated in late October 2017. Several turnpike companies were chartered to build macadamized (compacted broken stone) roads connecting Cincinnati to Dayton. One of these was the Great Miami Turnpike, constructed in 1840, which was later known as Cincinnati-Dayton Pike, Dixie Highway, U.S. Route 25 and South Dixie Drive. The dirt road traveled by foot, horse, wagon or stagecoach was eventually paved with macadam, concrete or brick. The road has always been one of southwest Ohio’s major north-south roads.
A stage line was established between Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati, making travel to Cincinnati from Dayton by passenger coach available. The service was weekly, and the trip took a mere 24 hours, with an overnight stay in Hamilton, Ohio. The fare: 8 cents a mile including a 14-pound luggage allowance.
A famous photo taken in 1914 just south of West Carrolton features the turnpike as it shows the five forms of transportation at one time – Miami-Erie Canal, Great Miami River, interurban traction line, railroad line and a Model T auto on the turnpike. The 1922 AAA Automobile Blue Book claims “the shortest and best route from Dayton to Cincinnati is via the Dixie Highway”. The Cincinnati-Dayton Pike was two-way traffic for almost one hundred years as Kettering Blvd from Dorothy Lane to southern Moraine was not built until 1928. During World War II when Frigidaire switched from producing refrigerators and began wartime production of airplane parts, bullets and machine guns, Dixie Highway in Moraine received additional lanes and an extension due the heavy volume of truck traffic shipping war supplies.
Traces of the original turnpike have surfaced from time to time. The old brick pavement was uncovered under southbound Central Avenue in West Carrollton near the former Roberds Appliance Store and again while the new I-75 Exit 48 ramps were being excavated. Additional remains of the original brick paved highway were uncovered by Dave Miller under the railroad overpass in December 2015 . The original brick road is solid and measures 16’11” wide, large enough for horse & buggy and eventually automobiles to pass safely in each direction. The Great Miami Turnpike Historical Marker is located at 4100 South Dixie Drive at the park just south of C.F. Holliday Elementary School.
This Moraine Historical Marker, “Famous Historical Street Names” was dedicated in late October 2017. The historical marker is located on Marconi Avenue across from Pizza Express. The Dayton-Wright Airplane Company was located on Springboro Pike and made, among other planes, the nation’s first bomber called the DeHavilland DH-4 which was used in World War I. Workers were needed for the plant and it was decided to lay out a plat (Photo#4) near the company to attract houses where workers could live. Around 1916, Charles Kettering and Col. Edward Deeds, Dayton-Wright Airplane Company partners, named Steinmetz, Marconi, Fulton and Edison Avenues after famous scientists/inventors. Over a dozen houses were built in 1917 on Edison Avenue all of which were ordered from the Sears Roebuck & Company catalog as mail-order homes.
Charles Steinmetz (1865-1923) fostered the development of alternating current that made possible the expansion of the electric power industry in the US. Steinmetz is shown with Thomas Edison (Photo#2). Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) was an electrical engineer known for his pioneering work on long-distance radio transmission. Robert Fulton (1765-1815) developed a commercially successful steamboat, the first practical submarine and early naval torpedoes. Thomas Edison (1847-1931), America’s greatest inventor, held 1,093 US patents including the phonograph, the motion picture camera and the practical light bulb. Edison Avenue was eventually renamed Blanchard Avenue after inventor Thomas Blanchard, the “Father of the Assembly Line”.
Another Moraine Historical Marker dedicated was for the Laughead Log Cabin. It is located near the intersection of West Carrollton Soldiers Home Road and Pinnacle Road. I researched and wrote the language for the sign and the Moraine Street Division built and installed the sign.
This is the former site of a log cabin built in 1803 by former Revolutionary War soldier David Laughead. Laughead came to Ohio with an expedition led by Gen. George Rogers Clark and received the land as a grant from the act of Congress. David was the great-grandfather of William Laughead, author of the Paul Bunyan stories. The 1 ½ story log cabin, located on the east side of Possum Creek, featured a winding, narrow ladder stairway to the second floor. The 18 foot structure was made from 56 logs. Laughead later sold the cabin to David Davis who married Mary Noffsinger of Jefferson Twnsp. David walked 40 miles from Richmond, Ind. to court Mary. He was a farmer and blacksmith. All of their 10 children (see photo) were born in the log cabin. The blacksmith shop was across the street from the log cabin but was destroyed by fire around 1960.
When the Quillen family purchased the property in 1986, they discovered the log cabin beneath the outer siding of the structure. The siding was removed and the log cabin donated to the Kettering-Moraine Museum in 1987 where it was on display.
Below are a few pictures of Expedition #1 to find the original South Dixie Highway. It was built in sections, some dirt and some brick in the 1840’s and originally called the Cincinnati-Dayton Pike, Great Miami Turnpike and old State Route 25. Through written reports and through old photo’s (like the 1918 photo #3 below showing the area before Frisch’s Restaurant was built), I determined that the original highway still may exist in sections underground. Using old maps, I guessed that it ran parallel to the existing overpass (where Dryden Road dead ends to Central/Dixie). On my 14th ground probe about twenty yards north of the railroad underpass, I hit more than dirt and small rocks. It was solid. I dug down about three inches, found a brick and then cleared out a section. Like magic, there it was. The original road was a ground crossing over the Big 4 Railroad (no bridge then) although there was bridges just south of here crossing over the Miami-Erie Canal and the old interurban ROV transit/trolley line.
Expedition Team: Dave Miller, Aaron Vietor, Kim Wallace, Mike Moorhead
Photo #1 taken in 1926 and shows an aviation event at Moraine Field, Dayton Municipal Airport. Our research was to (1) determine the location of Moraine Field and (2) determine was it really Dayton’s first Municipal Airport. This expedition was different, instead of walking through woods and trails as I did to discover the location of the Wright Brothers “Pinnacles”, we explored the internet, library and museum archives.
In the 1926 photos, Aaron thought the road at the top was Northlawn Ave. (based on the similar tree line and slight bend) when compared with a 1965 photo. I found a reprint of this 1926 photo in a 1979 Moraine publication which stated the airport was near Bertwyn Drive and Dorothy Lane. Bertwyn Drive up until the 1980’s was the northern part of now Springboro Pike between the Northlawn Bridge and I-75. Kim, Aaron and I kept searching. Aaron found Photo #2 which shows the airpark and what looks like Springboro Pike south of Northlawn. Researching the Dayton History archives I confirmed that location by finding several photos taken from a biplane circling the airport (taken in either the fall of 1926 or spring of 1927) clearing showing Springboro and Dorothy Lane. The airport would have been located 200 yards east of the Northlawn Bridge/Springboro Pike intersection and north of the new Fuyao Glass Plant (former General Motors Plant) entrance road.
Question 2, was this really the first Dayton Municipal Airport. Mike had located a document referencing a letter to the Dayton City Manager from Rinehart-Whelan Company (former Wright Brothers test pilots) offering the Moraine Flying Field to the City of Dayton in April 1926, without cost, as a Municipal Landing Field for commercial airplanes. On May 5, I spent the afternoon at Wright State University Library, Wright Brothers Special Collections. A box was brought to me labeled “Old Dayton Municipal Airport Documents”. It contained one file per year from 1926 to 1953. The 1926 file had 11 letters/documents. An April 1926 letter from Rinehart offered the airpark to Dayton City Manager Eichelberger. The Dayton City Attorney prepared an acceptance contract and resolution (Photo#6). An August 12, 1926 letter from the City Manager (Photo#7) proved the City of Dayton financed the painting of “Moraine Field, Dayton Municipal Airport” and utilized the field although no formal contract was signed.
A 1927 document went on to say that Moraine field was utilized until the summer of 1928 when air mail service moved to Wright Field in Dayton. That year a memo by the City Manager showed that Dayton was looking for land in the Vandalia area for an airport. Another letter to Dayton Airport Committee marketing state of the art hangers with a 50’ mast for airships. We all know this new air transportation trend ended abruptly with the Hindenburg Disaster.
The Moraine Historical Marker (Photo#5) commemorating Moraine Field was installed in August of 2016 at the Fuyao entrance ramp just east of the Northlawn/Springboro intersection across from the Northlawn Avenue Bridge.
The City of Moraine celebrated its 50th Birthday in 2015 (1965-2015). Moraine City Manager David Hicks asked my wife and I to chair a committee to plan and administer monthly special events, programs and projects throughout 2015 which we were honored to do.
Throughout my life while traveling I enjoyed reading Ohio (and other states) Historical Markers along the highway. With Moraine’s rich history, I decided to research, write and install ten Moraine Historical Markers as one of the “Moraine 50th Anniversary Projects”. Three of the ten markers dealt with the Wright Brothers as they had a strong presence in Moraine. This adventure was to find the famous “Pinnacles”.
In 1897 leading minds who dreamed of man flying argued what was most important – power or control. Wilbur Wright believed it was control. Every summer in 1898 when the weather was good the Wright Brothers bicycled south from Dayton to a popular, yet secluded picnic area called “The Pinnacles”, a cliff and gorge above the Miami River with large, unique boulders and strange geologic formations created during the ice age. (By the way, the City of Moraine got its name because moraine means the dirt, rock and gravel pushed along and left after a glacier). Ranging 60 to 80 feet high, the Pinnacles created updrafts that attracted buzzards and other birds providing an ideal observation area for the Wrights to study the mechanics of flight. Wilbur would lay and use binoculars to study the larger birds flying and turning. By the end of the summer of 1898, he determined his wing-warping theory here in Moraine based upon his observations of the birds twisting their wing tips.
City of Moraine employees Kim Wallace and Aaron Vietor helped on additional research and finding vintage photos. Six photos taken by Orville & Wilbur Wright in 1898 exist although one is of poor quality and a second photo shows a bridge behind the Pinnacles which is the basis of another expedition. The four main photos are shown below. See the detailed description on each photo. Written articles and diary records mentioned an area of the Pinnacles called the “Devils Backbone”. I remember in the mid 1970’s swinging on a tire swing and climbing trees in the woods that the locals called the Devils Backbone. Using this as a reference point plus the four vintage photos, I did four solo expeditions along hiking trails and deer trails in that area during the spring of 2015. Still, I was not convinced of the location.
As Aaron, Kim and I re-examined the photos and debated the location, the answer can to me. The water in photo #2 & #3 was not the Miami River but was the stagnant pond (Visible to the right in Photo#2) between the Pinnacle cliffs to the north and the railroad tracks and river to the south. Expedition #5 in May 2015 proved it and I discovered the exact location. I could sit at the top of the Pinnacle cliff and feel the cool updrafts hitting my face and see birds rising on the current. Below me the pond was still there but after 117 years, hundreds of trees and bushes had grown in the shallow pond which disguised it from that 1898 photo. Sadly, the weird geological shaped formation in photo #1 (with Wilbur Wright standing by it) has eroded away.
My daughter Jacque joined me on Expedition #6, and we tried to take photos at the Pinnacles at the same location that the Wright Brothers did. To me, it is unbelievable that this famous location is only one mile south from where I live and is one half mile north of where I worked all those years at Splash Moraine Waterpark/Moraine Recreation Center.
The Moraine Historical Marker for “The Pinnacles” is located along Main Street beside the Main Street Bike Trail. Volunteers and I are developing the 1.1 mile “Wright Brothers Pinnacles Hiking Trail” which we hope to have completed by 2022.
Expedition Team: Ron Elter, Rosie Miller, Dave Miller
Expedition Date: February 2016
This was our third trek to the excavation site on a unseasonably beautiful 68-degree day. Our team was joined by resolute and impregnable explorer Ron Elter. We continued to clear the three inches of dirt, moss and weeds to uncover the original brick road once traveled by horse and wagon. Rosie and Ron cleared the end bricks and measured a road width of 16 feet 11 inches. I continued to clear and expose a larger section of brick. Ron chiseled away at two end bricks for over 15 minutes before removing them. They are much heavier than today’s bricks and were sent away for analysis. They will be part of an eventual historical display at Moraine’s recreation centers and at local schools. After 140+ years, that brick road is solid.
For you Moraine history buffs look closely at the early 1920’s map that we used to find the buried road and note these interesting things that were different almost 100 years ago: Blanchard Avenue was called Edison Avenue after famous inventor Thomas Edison; Vance Road in front of Frank Nicholas School was called Apple Road (and the future homes Apple Plat); Pensacola Blvd. was called Broadmoor Blvd; Lauderdale Drive was called Orlando Drive; Lehigh Place was called Lansing; Notice a short road called Carroll Drive off of Edison Ave. where Treasure Island Supper Club is today. The Cincinnati & Lake Erie Interurban Transit electric rail line ran parallel to South Dixie. Notice the Lindbergh Blvd. plat in West Carrollton today was called South Moraine area back then. Alexandersville was the area that eventually became West Carrollton. East River Road was called Eby Road and that Dryden Road (which ran parallel to the Miami-Erie Canal was shaped different.
Did You Know: South Dixie Drive was two-way traffic until after World War II. (Notice Kettering Blvd. Runs into Springboro Pike, not like today). In 1941 Frigidaire stopped making refrigerators, began war production and built airplane parts, machine guns and bullets. An extra lane was added to westbound Dixie Drive to accommodate increased truck traffic.
I was joined by intrepid, circumspect explorer Rosie Miller. Temperature was 38 degrees made cooler by a wind chill. We parked and literally walked across history as we trekked across the former site of the Miami-Erie Canal which ran north-south where Dryden Road exists today. At the excavation site, we continued to unearth the original brick highway which is one to three inches underground. We cleared grass, dirt and light weeds. Rosie found the edge of the brick road on the south side. I unearthed within six inches of the edge of the north side of the brick road. We measured a width of over 11 feet. We also discovered underground the green metal sign with a “R” on it which Rosie holds in one of the photos. Must be an old sign to signify “railroad”. I tried to remove a brick but the 130+ year old road is still mortared in solid after all these years. I will have to research how to remove a brick from the edge of the highway. One of the photo’s is a circa 1910 map showing the Cincinnati-Dayton Pike which was at ground level (no railroad overpass). In the map you can see the Cincinnati, Dayton & Lake Erie Interurban Transit Line trolley tracks ran parallel to the road and did have an overpass in West Carrollton where it passed over the Miami & Erie Canal. Between the interurban trolley line and South Dixie Drive there is no Waffle House, no pawn shop, no hotel, no WDTN Channel 2 building and no Frisch’s Restaurant.