Dayton, Ohio


I enjoyed reading David McCullough’s book, The Wright Brothers and learning more about Orville and Wilbur Wright.  They were, of course, the two men who gave us powered flight.

A couple of years ago we traveled to Dayton, Ohio to learn more about aviation.  It’s the home town of the Wright brothers as well as the site for the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

The museum occupies four hangars at Wright Patterson Air Force base.  There’s a fascinating assortment of aircraft on display, ranging from early flyers to spacecraft .  As you walk through the galleries, you literally see the history of aviation.

Wright bicycle

The Early Years area features an interesting exhibit on the Wright brothers.  They started out manufacturing their own line of bicycles and running a repair shop before they got more serious about flight.  You can see where the concept of a bicycle-type chain drive carried over to their early flyers.

Replica of an early Wright flyer

Orville and Wilbur Wright made their historic first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December 17, 1903.  The machine was damaged beyond repair at the end of that day, but certain parts of it were saved.  A display case in the museum holds a piece of wing canvas from that original 1903 flyer.

Memphis Belle

On Fridays the museum offers Behind the Scenes Tours.  You’re shuttled by bus to hangars about a mile away from the museum and given a tour of their restoration area.  The project everyone wants to see is the Memphis Belle.  This B-17 Flying Fortress is one of the most famous aircraft in history.  It was the first bomber to complete twenty-five missions over Europe and return to the United States.  The aircraft has been the subject of a couple of movies and a documentary.

Robert Morgan was the pilot of the Memphis Belle.  He named the aircraft for his girlfriend, Margaret Polk, from Memphis, Tennessee.  The romance didn’t last, but the plane did.

After thirteen years of restoration, the Memphis Belle is scheduled to go on display May 17, 2018.  It will be featured in the WW II Gallery.  Below are some photos in the work area.





Another place you may want to visit in Dayton is the 1841 Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum.  It’s located on 200 acres of rolling hills, and is known for its trees and plants as well as the persons who are buried there.

Woodland Cemetery Office building

The cemetery’s chapel, entrance gate, and office building, completed in 1899, are on the National Register of Historic Places.  They were built in the Romanesque style of architecture that was popular at the time.


Inside the chapel there’s a beautiful Tiffany window.

With a tour map, “The Wonders of Woodland Guide to Interesting Trees & Monuments,” you can drive or walk to the various points of interest.

Wright family burial site

One of the most visited gravesites is that of Orville and Wilbur Wright.  Other noted persons buried in Woodland Cemetery are columnist Erma Bombeck, George Huffman (Huffy bikes), and George Mead (Mead Paper Co.)

George Huffman monument (Huffy bikes)

The highest elevation in Dayton can be found at Lookout Point, on the north side of the cemetery.  There’s a great view of the downtown area from that hilltop.


And also downtown – the 150-year-old Victoria Theater, River Scape Metro Park, and the Wright Cycle Company Complex.  It’s a city of aviation history and more!



John Deere World Headquarters Moline, Illinois

I grew up in a family that prefers John Deere machinery over anything red.  This choice can be traced back to my grandfather– we still have the General Purpose tractor that he purchased in 1936.  (My dad restored it several years ago.)  So my interest in all things John Deere comes naturally.

Deere GP Bob_L
Bob Larson on his dad’s 1936 John Deere General Purpose

In a post last fall about Grand Detour, Illinois, the origins of John Deere’s company was explored, along with a look at his 1837 home and the community where he lived.  The story continues in Moline, Illinois where Deere moved his company and his family in 1848.  The business continued to prosper over the decades and well into the 1900s.  Eventually there was pressure to move the headquarters to a larger city.  The response was to stay in Moline, but construct a building worthy of Deere and Company’s success and position in the global market.

John Deere World Headquarters

Company president William Hewitt wanted a structure that was impressive, yet not overdone.  Well-known Finnish architect Eero Saarinen was approached to design a new headquarters.  (Saarinen also designed the St. Louis arch and a home in Columbus, Indiana for Irvin Miller, the chairman of Cummins, Inc.)

Work was completed in 1964.  The stunning new building won several architectural awards, including two from the American Institute of Architects.

As you drive up a winding lane toward the headquarters, you see a dark, rugged-looking structure with horizontal lines.  The construction material is a type of weathering steel which gives the buildings an earthy look as it oxidizes over time.


The outside might be subdued, but inside the building, everything shines – the floor, the windows, and the sophisticated equipment.  There’s a display area for the public to learn about John Deere products and history.

We were greeted on the exhibit floor by Don, a friendly and knowledgeable host.  You’re invited to sit on the various pieces of equipment and look them over.  The seats are comfy, and the cabs are filled with the latest technology. We were told that if a customer needs a piece of equipment and the only one available is the display model (production can take three to eight weeks), company employees will open the shiny doors and let the buyer take the tractor, combine, or whatever it is.


There’s interesting old machinery to learn about, too.  The tractor below is a cut-away model that was used to educate ag students and mechanics.  Certain areas of the exterior metal are removed to see the engine parts and how they work.


After visiting the world headquarters, you can take a drive around town to see where various Deere family members lived.  Two of the homes are open for tours.

Red Cliff, c.1870

John Deere’s Moline house, named Red Cliff, is located on 11th Avenue.  It sits on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.  The property was sold out of the Deere family in 1933.

Overlook, 1872 – now the Deere Wiman Home

John Deere’s son, Charles, ran the business operations of the company for forty-six years.  He and his wife, Mary, built Overlook in 1872.  Today you can tour the house and beautiful gardens.

Butterworth Center- originally named Hillcrest, 1892

Right across the street from Charles’ estate is the Butterworth Center, where Charles and Mary’s daughter, Katherine Deere Butterworth, lived with her husband and children.  It’s open to the public, too.

Villa Velie, 1912

One of the grandest Deere homes belonged to William L. Velie, a grandson of John Deere.  Velie worked as an executive for Deere and Company and also founded Velie Motor Company. He produced early automobiles and later airplanes.  In 1912 Velie and his wife, Annie, built this palatial house of 42 rooms.  It was inspired by Italian villas the couple saw while traveling through Europe.  In later years the home was a restaurant.  Today it is the location of QCR Holdings and a branch of Quad City Bank and Trust.

John Deere and Company and Deere family members have left their mark in Moline, Illinois.  It’s an enjoyable experience to take in the sites and history.