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National Memorial
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aircraft flying over memorial shaft
Aircraft over the Wright memorial shaft.

Guide to the Area

VISITOR CENTER. The visitor center represents the focal point in the interpretation of the area. In addition to an extensive series of modern museum exhibits telling the story of the memorial, the center also houses an information desk, where literature is available, and the administrative offices of the memorial. From the exhibition rooms, there is a sweeping panoramic view of the reconstructed Wright brothers' 1903 camp, the first flight grounds where markers designate the take-off and landing points of the first flights, and the Wright memorial shaft atop Kill Devil Hill.

RECONSTRUCTED WRIGHT BROTHERS' 1903 CAMP. About 100 yards southwest of the visitor center stand two wooden structures built by the National Park Service in 1953 on the 50th anniversary of the first flight. They are reconstructions of the Wright brothers' 1903 living quarters and hangar based on historical research and photographs of the originals. The furnishings within the living quarters are of the 1902—3 period, and are almost exact duplications of those used by the Wrights.

FIRST FLIGHT GROUNDS. Less than 100 feet west of the camp is a 10-ton granite memorial boulder placed by the National Aeronautic Association in 1928 on the 25th anniversary of the first flight. The boulder marks the take-off point of the first flight and of the three additional flights made December 17, 1903. A reconstruction of the original single-rail starting track is placed at the north and south sides of the boulder. Four numbered markers north of the boulder designate landing points of the powered flights made on December 17, 1903.

KILL DEVIL HILL. About a quarter of a mile south of the visitor center lies Kill Devil Hill, used by the Wrights for gliding experiments during the period 1900—1903. The north slope of this hill was also used for the unsuccessful attempt at flight on December 14, 1903. Before the Wright memorial shaft was erected, conservation work was begun in 1929 on the massive 26-acre dune of shifting yellow sand to anchor the 91-foot-high dune by seeding it with special grasses adapted to sandy soil.

WRIGHT MEMORIAL SHAFT. Atop Kill Devil Hill stands the striking Wright memorial shaft, a triangular pylon 60 feet high, made of gray granite from Mount Airy, N.C. Construction was begun February 4, 1931, and the shaft was dedicated November 19, 1932. Its sides ornamented with outspread wings in bas-relief, the pylon gives to the eye the impression of a gigantic bird about to take off into space. Stairs lead to the top of the shaft and an observation platform which offers a good view of the surrounding country—magnificent dunes, the Atlantic Ocean, Albemarle Sound, and even West Hill, a quarter of a mile west of the shaft, in the direction of the sound. West Hill, the sand dune which was the scene of many of the Wrights' gliding experiments in 1901—3, was stabilized by the National Park Service in 1934 to preserve the historic site.


Wright Brothers National Memorial is administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. A superintendent whose address is Kill Devil Hills, N.C., is in immediate charge.


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Last Modified: Sat, Sep 28 2002 10:00:00 pm PDT

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