Wright Brothers National Memorial
Wright Brothers National Memorial, located in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
Kill Devil Hills is a town in Dare County, North Carolina, USA. The population was 5,897 at the 2000 census.Nearby Kitty Hawk is frequently cited as the location of the Wright brothers' first controlled, powered airplane flights on December 17, 1903...

, commemorates the first successful, sustained, powered flights in a heavier-than-air machine. From 1900 to 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright came here from Dayton, Ohio
Dayton, Ohio
Dayton is the 6th largest city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Montgomery County, the fifth most populous county in the state. The population was 141,527 at the 2010 census. The Dayton Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 841,502 in the 2010 census...

, based on information from the U.S. Weather Bureau about the area's steady winds. They also valued the privacy provided by this location, which in the early twentieth century was remote from major population centers.

Administrative history

Authorized as Kill Devil Hill Monument on March 2, 1927, it was transferred from the War Department
United States Department of War
The United States Department of War, also called the War Department , was the United States Cabinet department originally responsible for the operation and maintenance of the United States Army...

 to the National Park Service
National Park Service
The National Park Service is the U.S. federal agency that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations...

  on August 10, 1933. Congress renamed it and designated it a national memorial
National Memorial
National Memorial is a designation in the United States for a protected area that memorializes a historic person or event. National memorials are authorized by the United States Congress...

 on December 4, 1953. As with all historic areas administered by the National Park Service, the national memorial was listed on the National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...

 on October 15, 1966. The memorial's visitor center
Visitor center
A visitor center or centre , visitor information center, tourist information center, is a physical location that provides tourist information to the visitors who tour the place or area locally...

, designed by Ehrman Mitchell and Romaldo Giurgola
Romaldo Giurgola
Romaldo Giurgola AO is an Italian-American-Australian academic architect, professor, and author. Giurgola was born in Galatina, in the south of Italy in 1920. After service in the Italian armed forces during World War II, he was educated at the Sapienza University of Rome...

, was designated a National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark
A National Historic Landmark is a building, site, structure, object, or district, that is officially recognized by the United States government for its historical significance...

 on January 3, 2001. The memorial is co-managed with two other Outer Banks
Outer Banks
The Outer Banks is a 200-mile long string of narrow barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, beginning in the southeastern corner of Virginia Beach on the east coast of the United States....

 parks, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Cape Hatteras National Seashore preserves the portion of the Outer Banks of North Carolina from Bodie Island to Ocracoke Island, stretching over . Included within this section of barrier islands along N.C...


The Field and Hangar

The Wrights made four flights from level ground near the base of the hill on December 17, 1903, following three years of gliding experiments from atop this and other nearby sand dunes. It is possible to walk along the actual routes of the four flights, with small monuments marking their starts and finishes. Two wooden sheds, based on historic photographs, recreate the world's first airplane hangar and the brothers' living quarters.

Visitor Center

The Visitor Center is home to a museum featuring models and actual tools and machines used by the Wright brothers during their flight experiments including a reproduction of the wind tunnel used to test wing shapes and a portion of the engine used in the first flight. In one wing of the Visitor Center is a life-size replica of the Wright brothers' 1903 Flyer, the first powered aircraft in history to achieve controlled flight. A full-scale model of the Brothers' 1902 glider is also present, having been constructed under the direction of Orville Wright himself. Adorning the walls of the glider room are portraits and photographs of other flight pioneers throughout history.

Kill Devil Hill and the Memorial Tower

A 60-foot (18 m) granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...

 monument, dedicated in 1932, is perched atop 90-foot-tall (27 m) Kill Devil Hill, commemorating the achievement of the Wright brothers. They conducted many of their glider tests on the massive shifting dune that was later stabilized to form Kill Devil Hill. Inscribed in capital letters along the base of the memorial tower is the phrase "In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright conceived by genius achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith." Atop the tower is a marine beacon
A beacon is an intentionally conspicuous device designed to attract attention to a specific location.Beacons can also be combined with semaphoric or other indicators to provide important information, such as the status of an airport, by the colour and rotational pattern of its airport beacon, or of...

, similar to one found in a lighthouse.

Building the Memorial

The tower was designed by Rodgers and Poor
Alfred Easton Poor
Alfred Easton Poor was an American architect, involved with many buildings and projects in New York City, works in Washington, D.C., for the US Federal Government, and perhaps most notably the Wright Brothers National Memorial. While a student at the University of Pennsylvania, he studied under...

, a New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 architectural firm; the design was officially selected on February 14, 1930. Prior to the memorial's construction, the War Department
United States Department of War
The United States Department of War, also called the War Department , was the United States Cabinet department originally responsible for the operation and maintenance of the United States Army...

 selected Captain William H. Kindervater of the Quartermaster Corps to prepare the site for construction and to manage the area landscaping
Landscaping refers to any activity that modifies the visible features of an area of land, including:# living elements, such as flora or fauna; or what is commonly referred to as gardening, the art and craft of growing plants with a goal of creating a beautiful environment within the landscape.#...

. To secure the sandy foundation, Captain Kindervater selected bermuda grass to be planted on Kill Devil Hill and the surrounding area. He also ordered a special fertilizer to be spread throughout the area to promote grass
Grasses, or more technically graminoids, are monocotyledonous, usually herbaceous plants with narrow leaves growing from the base. They include the "true grasses", of the Poaceae family, as well as the sedges and the rushes . The true grasses include cereals, bamboo and the grasses of lawns ...

 and shrubbery
A shrubbery is a wide border to a garden where shrubs are thickly planted; or a similar larger area with a path winding through it. A shrubbery was a feature of 19th-century gardens in the English manner, with its origins in the gardenesque style of the early part of the century...

 growth and decided to build a fence to prevent animal grazing
Grazing generally describes a type of feeding, in which a herbivore feeds on plants , and also on other multicellular autotrophs...

. With a strong foundation in place, the Office of the Quartermaster selected Marine Captain John A. Gilman to preside over the construction project. Construction began in October 1931 and with a budget of $213,000, the memorial was completed in November 1932. In the end, 1,200 tons of granite, more than 2,000 tons of gravel
Gravel is composed of unconsolidated rock fragments that have a general particle size range and include size classes from granule- to boulder-sized fragments. Gravel can be sub-categorized into granule and cobble...

, more than 800 tons of sand
Sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles.The composition of sand is highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal...

 and almost 400 tons of cement
In the most general sense of the word, a cement is a binder, a substance that sets and hardens independently, and can bind other materials together. The word "cement" traces to the Romans, who used the term opus caementicium to describe masonry resembling modern concrete that was made from crushed...

 were used to build the structure, along with numerous other materials.

Memorial Dedication

November 14, 1932 was selected as the dedication day; over 20,000 people were expected to attend. Yet, only about 1,000 actually came to the event, which was held on a stormy and windy day. Orville Wright was the main guest of honor at the ceremony, and aviator Ruth Nichols was given the privilege of removing the American flag that covered the word "GENIUS" and the plaque on the monument. President Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover
Herbert Clark Hoover was the 31st President of the United States . Hoover was originally a professional mining engineer and author. As the United States Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he promoted partnerships between government and business...

 was unable to attend the ceremony; however, a letter from the President was read prior to the dedication. The ceremony also marked the rare occasion when one of the persons the memorial was dedicated to (Orville Wright) was still living.

The hill offers great views of the surrounding area.

Centennial of Flight

On December 17, 2003, the Centennial of Flight was celebrated at the Park. The ceremony was hosted by flight enthusiast John Travolta
John Travolta
John Joseph Travolta is an American actor, dancer and singer. Travolta first became known in the 1970s, after appearing on the television series Welcome Back, Kotter and starring in the box office successes Saturday Night Fever and Grease...

, and included appearances by President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

, Neil Armstrong
Neil Armstrong
Neil Alden Armstrong is an American former astronaut, test pilot, aerospace engineer, university professor, United States Naval Aviator, and the first person to set foot upon the Moon....

, Buzz Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin is an American mechanical engineer, retired United States Air Force pilot and astronaut who was the Lunar Module pilot on Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing in history...

, and Chuck Yeager
Chuck Yeager
Charles Elwood "Chuck" Yeager is a retired major general in the United States Air Force and noted test pilot. He was the first pilot to travel faster than sound...

. The Centennial Pavilion was built for the celebration and today houses exhibits showing the Outer Banks at the turn-of-the-century, the development of the 2003 replica, and NASA provided displays on aviation and flight.

An interactive sculpture was donated by the State of North Carolina and dedicated during the celebration. The life sized sculpture, created by Stephen H. Smith
Stephen H. Smith
Stephen H. Smith is an American sculptor best known for his interactive life-sized sculpture depicting the first flight of the Wright brothers 1903 flyer on display at the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina...

, is a full-sized replica of 1903 flyer the moment the flight began and includes the Wright Brothers along with members of the Kill Devils Hills Life-Saving Station who assisted in moving the aircraft, as well as John T. Daniels
John T. Daniels
John T. Daniels was a member of the Kill Devil Hills Life-Saving Station who is best known for taking the photograph of the Wright brothers' first flight on December 17, 1903...

 who took the now famous photograph of the first flight.

See also

  • Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
    Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
    thumb|left|200 px|The Wright Flyer III, now in Carillon Historical Park, shown being flown by Orville Wright on October 4, 1905, over [[Huffman Prairie]] near Dayton...

  • The 1983 film Brainstorm (1983 film which featured several key scenes filmed at the monument.

External links

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