There were many addresses of historical significance near the intersection of West Third Street and Williams Street where the Wright brothers set up businesses, outgrew their resources, moved businesses, and started again. They went from printing to bicycles to aeroplanes, from ideas to vision to invention.
We all remember those famous first flights at Kill Devil Hills near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, December 17, 1903. But that history was actually made in Dayton. The Wright brothers did the bulk of their research, discovery, and fabrication in the neighborhood around West Third at Williams.
In 1889 the young Wrights moved their printing business out of their home and set up Wright and Wright, Job Printers at 1210 West Third St. Moving again just a year later, they occupied the third floor of the Hoover Block building at the intersection of West Third St. and South Williams St. from 1890 to 1895.
Next, with a successful print business operating smoothly, Orville’s and Wilbur’s ambitions grew to servicing the new hot mode of transportation. In 1892 they set up the Wright Cycle Exchange at 1005 West Third St. That business moved to 1034 West Third St. the following year in 1893.
In 1895, the Wright Cycle Company (new name) set up shop at 22 South Williams Street—the current location of Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park. It was at 22 South Williams, in 1896, a casual conversation between the intellectually curious Wrights led them to contemplate the death of an aviation pioneer, take up the cause, and decide to make history. Wilbur learned of the death of Otto Lilienthal, a German engineer and aeronautical pioneer who died from injuries received in a glider accident. Wilbur later wrote that Lilienthal’s death inspired the brothers to develop and fly their own airplane.
Finally, in 1897 the move to where history was made—the building at 1127 West Third St. It was here the brothers did the engineering heavy lifting with the research, design, testing, and fabrication of the gliders and Wright Flyers that took to the skies over North Carolina and Huffman Prairie.
So, the neighborhood near the intersection of West Third at Williams; it’s where Wilbur and Orville first called themselves The Wright Brothers, where they grew a printing company, building a press using buggy parts and a damaged gravestone, where they adapted and displayed their natural mechanical acumen, where back rooms became laboratories, machine shops, and thought mills, where they built kites and gliders and wind tunnels and machines that would lift man from the earth and control his path through the sky. And change the world.