Wright Brothers National Memorial - History and Facts | History Hit

Wright Brothers National Memorial

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About Wright Brothers National Memorial

On December 17 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright achieved the first successful aeroplane flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Today, the 60ft high granite Wright Brothers National Memorial towers over the town of Kitty Hawk in the same location as the historic first flight, and is a popular visitor attraction.

History of Wright Brothers National Memorial

The Wright brothers designed plans and blueprints out of a small bicycle shop for years before heading to the town of Kitty Hawk in 1900 to test their invention. A coastal town with towering sand dunes and consistent winds, the brothers theorised that it had the perfect conditions to make their small glider take flight. On December 17 1900, Orville Wright remained in the air for 12 seconds and covered 120 feet of distance; however, it was enough to change the world.

In the 1920s, the government announced that it intended to publicly honour the Wright brothers as aviation pioneers. In 1927, President Calvin Coolidge signed a bill which awarded $50,000 towards the memorial in Kill Devil Hills. A design was selected in 1930 based upon a plan by New York architectural firm Rodgers and Poor, and the monument was completed in 1932.

A memorial dedication was held on a very windy day on November 14, 1932, with Orville Wright in attendance as the guest of honour.

Wright Brothers National Memorial today

Today, the monument is a very popular visitor attraction, and can be reached as part of a gentle walk up the grassy sloping hill. Nearby, a reproduction launch rail demonstrates where the glider first took flight, and small monuments mark the exact first and second landing spots.

The nearby visitor centre features a full-scale reproduction of the 1902 glider and the 1903 flying machine, as well as an original engine block and reproduction wind tunnel that the brothers used when conducting their early experiments. Interpretive displays throughout the museum and ‘Flight Room Talks’ are also popular and are well worth the visit.

Nearby, there are fully furnished replica living quarters and hangar almost exactly where they originally stood. The newest attraction, the Centennial of Flight museum, is located adjacent to the original visitors’ centre.

Getting to Wright Brothers National Memorial

Wright Brothers National Memorial is located along US 158 in the town of Kill Devil Hills on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It is nearly impossible to miss since it towers over the Kill Devil Hills landscape. Visitors can reach it by heading to US 158, also known as the Beach Bypass. The Memorial is located on the soundside (or western side) of the road, at Milepost 7.5.