100 Years Ago Today: Wrights move into Hawthorn Hill

One hundred years ago today, the Wrights moved into their new Oakwood mansion Hawthorn Hill.

Bishop Milton Wright wrote in his diary, April 28, 1914:

We moved from 7 Hawthorn Street, Dayton, Ohio, to Hawthorn Hill, Harmon Ave., Oakwood, Ohio. I moved to 7 Hawthorn in 1871, some time in February. We moved to Iowa in [blank] 1878. We returned to Richmond in [blank] 1881, and came back to Dayton in 1884. We did with tallow candles, to-night. We arrived in a auto-taxicab at 3:45 afternoon.

Only Milton and Katharine stayed in the house that first night. Orville was in New York on business. And it was not until May that all of their personal belongings were completely moved over from 7 Hawthorn Street to Hawthorn Hill. Nevertheless, the “move-in day” (or days) had been more than two years in coming.

The first inklings of what eventually became Hawthorn Hill were planted while Wilbur was still alive. He and Orville originally chose a home site on the corner of Salem Avenue and Harvard Boulevard (near the present-day Five Oaks/ University Row neighborhoods). However, Katharine convinced them to purchase a wooded lot further away from the city. In February 1912, they purchased the 17-acre Oakwood lot on which Hawthorn Hill would be built. Construction began in August 1912, and construction contracts totaled $39,600. (According to Westegg Inflation Calculator, that would be about $941,000 today.)

Orville submitted his ideas to the Dayton architectural firm Schenck & Williams, but Orville personally followed the project details very closely. Wilbur was much less interested in the planning of the new house, beyond having a bedroom and bathroom of his own, and Wilbur died in May 1912, before construction even began.

In addition to watching the project closely and meticulously confirming that all details matched his requests and requirements, Orville actually designed several of the home’s core systems, including the plumbing, heating, and electric.

The following comprises just a handful of our many photographs of Hawthorn Hill through the years. The photographs are from the Wright Brothers Collection (MS-1), Ivonette Wright Miller Papers (MS-216), and the Dayton Daily News Archive (MS-458).

Today, Hawthorn Hill is an historic site that the public can visit through tours offered by Dayton History.

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