Two days before the National Park Service celebrates its centennial anniversary, a senior NPS official visited Dayton to praise the historical preservation work in the National Aviation Heritage Area.
“I am inspired by all you are doing to preserve our aviation story and sharing these special places with the children growing up here and the many visitors that help support your local economy,” Dr. Stephanie Toothman, NPS associate director for cultural resources, partnerships and science in Washington, D.C., said Tuesday, Aug. 23.
Toothman was the keynote speaker for the 11th annual meeting of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance (NAHA). NAHA is a nonprofit designated by Congress to manage the eight-county heritage area.
As it approaches its second century—the agency turns 100 on Aug. 25—the NPS is looking for ways to engage citizens and inspire future stewards of America’s natural and historical treasures. Toothman said National Heritage Areas “are one of the best ways that the National Park Service can reach new audiences and engage them where they live, work, and play.”
The National Aviation Heritage Area is one of 49 National Heritage Areas in the country. Toothman said the NPS sees them as “invaluable partners that are working to build on the linkages between our natural and cultural heritage” through community partnerships.
Here, one such partnership is aimed at preserving and restoring the Wright Company factory—the first American airplane factory—erected in 1910 by Wilbur and Orville Wright. NAHA is working with the NPS and others to make the factory a unit of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. It’s raised about $2 million in public and private money toward a $4 million goal to acquire, preserve and begin redeveloping the 54-acre site that includes the factory.
Toothman recognized several non-federal partners involved in the effort, including the State of Ohio, the City of Dayton, property owner Home Avenue Redevelopment LLC and the Dayton Metro Library, which has committed to build a new, $10 million branch library on the site. The Dayton Foundation also has been a significant supporter.
“This would not be possible without all of the partners here working with the National Aviation Heritage Area,” Toothman said.
Toothman, whose job includes being keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, noted the heritage area is exceptionally rich in historic sites.
“I was impressed to learn that 365 sites in the National Aviation Heritage Area are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and that you care for the only plane to earn the title of National Historic Landmark—the 1905 Wright Flyer III,” she said.
Wilbur and Orville Wright considered their 1905 airplane the world’s first practical flying machine. On display in Dayton History’s Carillon Historical Park, the flyer is one of five National Historic Landmarks within the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.
Toothman spoke in the auditorium of historic Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum, a NAHA partner, which hosted NAHA’s annual meeting. Woodland, one of America’s first garden cemeteries, is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year.