Place

Wright Brothers Monument

Visitors walk along the path towards the monument in the distance.
Visitors walking towards the monument

Kurt Moses/NPS

Quick Facts

Cellular Signal, Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Scenic View/Photo Spot

The Wright Brothers Monument is a 60-foot-tall, Art Deco style, granite monument that sits atop Big Kill Devil Hill-the primary location of the brothers' glider experiments.

With a $213,000 budget, construction began on the monument in 1928 with the laying of the cornerstone during the 25th anniversary of the first flight. After Big Kill Devil Hill-which shifted continuously due to wind and weather-was stabilized by the Quartermaster's Corps in 1929, the construction began in earnest.

The monument was officially dedicated in 1932, with approximately 1,000 people in attendance-Orville Wright among them.

Laying the Cornerstone

The cornerstone for the monument was laid atop Kill Devil Hill on December 17, 1928-the 25th anniversary of the first flight and the same day of the First Flight Boulder dedication.

Stabilizing the Dune

In order to build a large monument atop Big Kill Devil Hill, the sand dune needed to be stabilized. In 1929, the dune was stabilized using a mixture of Bermuda grass, bitter panic grass, yaupon, myrtle, pine, live oak, and sumac-all found locally and transplanted. Rye and crotalaria grasses were also used.

Description of the planting method use:
> Shallow furrows plowed about thirty inches apart. Fertilizer applied, wire [Bermuda] grass roots placed in furrow, and different grass seeds sowed with the wire [Bermuda] grass roots. All planting then covered with a thin layer of sand and the entire area covered with two to three inches of wood's mold. Wood mold helped to fertilize sand and prevented the movement of sand while the seeds were germinating.

Design

In June, 1928, the Office of the Quartermaster General announced a design competition for the development of the monument. In October, 1928, the Office suggested that Big Kill Devil Hill would be a suitable location for the monument. By January, 1929, 36 entries had been received.

The selection of the winning design was made in accordance with principles established by the American Institute of Architects. The jury chose the submission by the New York architectural firm of Rodgers and Poor, and the Commission of Fine Arts concurred. The winning Art Deco-inspired design was a masonry shaft and base of approximately 60 feet set on a star-shaped foundation. The design implied ancient Egyptian motifs, an important source for Art Deco designs.

Construction

The Wills and Mafera Corporation of New York won the bid for general contractor of the monument. The North Carolina Granite Corporation of Mount Airy, North Carolina, received the contract to supply the granite.

Construction began in December 1931 and was completed by November 1932.

Dedication

The monument was dedicated in December 1932-one month after completion.

Wright Brothers National Memorial

Last updated: November 7, 2021