8 interesting things to see at Hawthorn Hill, the Wright family mansion

Hawthorn Hill, the Wright family home in Oakwood, is open for tours every spring by Dayton History and the Oakwood Historical Society.

Each room of the mansion is unique and interesting stories about them are shared by docents. Historical images are usually shared in each so that visitors can picture what the place looked like when the Wright’s lived there compared to present day. Many of the rooms have been preserved or restored to look very much in line with the Wright time period.

Here are some of the most interesting things shared during the tour.

The house itself

Hawthorn Hill, the Wright family home in Oakwood, was completed in 1914. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1991.

The Georgian Revival style mansion has a symmetrical design with porches on each end.

The house looks nearly the same from the front and back, with only the driveway and lawn distinguishing them.

Orville Wright lived in the Oakwood mansion with his father, Bishop Milton Wright, and his sister, Katharine Wright.

The reading chair

The library/reading room at Hawthorn Hill is just the same as when Orville Wright and his family lived there.

Orville was an avid reader. In his reading room there is a chair that Orville altered to make his reading more comfortable. He created holes in each arm of the chair so a book stand could be mounted. This way, all he had to do was turn the pages and not hold the book. He also altered the foot rest to improve the angle. He did this because it was sometimes uncomfortable for him to sit for long periods due to back and let injuries sustained during a 1908 plane crash.

Central vacuum system

Very advanced for it’s time, the house has a whole-house vacuum system. Brass plates cover holes in or close to several room to which the vacuum can be attached.

Housekeepers could connect vacuum hoses to special outlets in the floor or walls to sweep the entire house, using a motor housed in the basement. Despite the convenience, the home’s housekeeper reportedly hated using it.

Window bicycle chains

There are a few areas in the mansion where the ropes and weights that once held windows open had broken. In their place are painted bicycle chains.

The needle shower

An American Standard needle shower was installed to help Orville soothe his aching body. Showers of this type could be found in the homes of the wealthy of that era.

Originally the plumbing fixture had four wrap-around pipes that jets of water shot from which acted as a massage.

The shower originally had 2 curtains, a turquoise one inside and for the outside Orville used a modified waterproof tarp that he once used to use to protect his 1903 airplane from the elements.

The massive water tank

In the basement there is a water storage tank used to collect and recycle rainwater that provided water to the entire house. Orville Wright liked rain water because it was mineral free and designed his own cistern system.

After the water went through a filtration system twice it was kept in the massive holding tank.

The basement vault

Orville kept a vault in the basement of Hawthorn Hill. He used to it store documents and other valuables. Orville Wright would store his patents and documents, since banks at the time didn’t have safe deposit boxes.

Currently the furniture NCR bought and used for the house is stored there.

Orville’s original furniture has been put back in place.

Library clock

Orville Wright’s clock, kept on a shelf in his Hawthorn Hill library, is set to 10:40 p.m., the time of his death Jan. 30, 1948.

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