A sculpture of the 1905 Wright Flyer III is once again flying in its full glory as the new gateway to the Wright Dunbar Historic District. Located at the corner of Edwin C. Moses and West Third Street, the Flyer is settling into its new home after two years in storage at Montgomery County’s Solid Waste District in Moraine.
Purchased by the Montgomery County Commissioners in 2001 at a cost of $165,000, the sculpture was originally a centerpiece of the invention station artworks as part of the opening of RiverScape MetroPark in 2001.
“Our County Commissioners at the time had a great vision for this piece, creating something that visitors would always remember and identify as an icon in the birthplace of aviation,” said Montgomery County Commission President Debbie Lieberman. “When the land was sold and it had to move, we immediately began working on a plan for a new home.”
To accomplish this relocation, Montgomery County secured buy-in from Wright Dunbar Incorporated and the City of Dayton. Each of the three entities donated a parcel of land for the project. Meanwhile, the County’s Facilities Management secured the contractors and supervised the $576,000 project.
“The neighbors of Wright-Dunbar Village are very pleased that the county chose the corner of Edwin C. Moses Blvd. and Third St., our neighborhood, for the relocation of the Wright sculpture,” said Jeff Jackson, President of Wright-Dunbar Village. “The anticipation was high, and it was fun to see the installation day by day. There were so many positive comments and photos from various social media sources about the installation. We are excited to see it completed and proud to have it as an impressive and appropriate gateway to the neighborhood!”
“We are thankful the City of Dayton and Wright Dunbar Incorporated donated a parcel of land,” said Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert. “But even more so, we really appreciate getting their buy-in so we could move forward with this project.”
The original sculpture was commissioned to Larry Godwin, an artist who had previously done two similar Wright Flyer sculptures located in Florida and Alabama. Both withstood hurricane force winds, so there was great confidence that Godwin could create a piece that would do justice to the Wright brothers and withstand the elements.Featuring a life-size Wilber Wright flying the aircraft with Orville Wright on the ground cheering their accomplishment, the bronze figures and aircraft were a highlight of RiverScape for 20 years.
“Our new Third Street Bridge was constructed with great attention to Dayton history, complete with images of Paul Lawrence Dunbar and the Wright brothers,” Commissioner Judy Dodge said. “Locating this sculpture near the bridge is an extension for that Montgomery County story, and it really calls greater attention to the historic neighborhood Dunbar and the Wright brothers actually called home.”
Brown and Bills Architects are leading design and construction. Brumbaugh Construction is the general contractor, and subcontractors were in charge of moving, placing, welding and minor repairs to the original structure. There is a curved concrete wall surrounding the statue with “1905 Wright Flight Flyer III” on it. Pavers, sidewalks and landscaping are also part of the project, which is set to be complete later this month.
“In December, Montgomery County was designated as Ohio’s only American World War II Heritage City by the National Park Service,” said Commissioner Carolyn Rice. “The bravery and sacrifice of our men and women were critical to the country’s war effort. That, combined with the innovation of the Wright Brothers and other Montgomery County citizens really pushed our county forward as a global leader. This sculpture is a great way of celebrating that heritage, and we are so proud to be part of preserving it.”
According to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the 1905 Wright Flyer III was the world’s first airplane capable of sustained, maneuverable flight.