Location: Dayton, Ohio
General Description: Carillon Historical Park is a 65 acre park that celebrates the rich history of progress and creativity, inventions, and milestones that changed the nation and world that originated in Dayton. Visitors learn about Dayton’s early settler history and its importance as a major transportation center, which at one time had over ten automobile manufacturers. Dayton saw the advent of the electric starter for cars, had an extensive railway system including electric trolleys and buses, and generated more patents for inventions then anywhere else in the US.
1) The best known landmark is the Deeds Carillon which is a gift from the founders, Colonel Edward and Edith Deeds. It is a 151 foot tower with 57 bells that plays automated musical selections throughout the day.
2) Along with Carillon Brewing Co outside the park, the Carillon Historical Park is a tremendous museum of Dayton’s mind blowing history of inventions and innovations. The entire experience can fill up more than a single day.
3) You enter the park within the Heritage Center of Manufacturing & Entrepreneurship which provides an overview of all the innovative companies that have made Dayton their home over the years. On display is a huge, yet only part of the collection, of antique NCR cash registers from the simplest to the most gaudy creations. There is a 4-D animatronic theatre that celebrates Dayton from the factory innovations at NCR, the many accomplishments of Deeds and Kittering, and of course, the Wright Brothers. The original Deeds Barn has been placed inside where Deeds and Kittering, along with the Barns Gang, designed the first electric starter for cars. There are MANY other exhibits highlighting the accomplishments of other companies that transformed our world in automobile manufacturing, bicycles, printing and publishing, refrigerators and other appliances, and many more.
4) Once you finally get outside, there is a lot more yet to explore. The common practice in the 1940s was to create historical parks by moving structures to a central location and this is a good example of this practice. The best example is the Ford Museum’s Greenville Village in Michigan. The Settlement Exhibits include the Watervliet Shaker Building (1832), the Locust Grove School (1896), Newcom Tavern (1796), William Morris House (1815), the Hetzel Summer Kitchen (1817), and the Newcom House (1841). We did not spend much time exploring these buildings as our time was limited.
5) The transportation exhibits included the Corliss Engine Building, the Sun Oil Station, the Dayton Sales Building, the Bowling Green Station, the Dayton Cyclery, the James F. Dicke Family Transportation Center, the Morrison Iron Bridge, the Miami and Erie Canal Lock No, 17, the Smith Covered Bridge, and the Wright Brothers Aviation Center. Many of these were fascinating, but I will mention just a few highlights.
6) The Wright Brothers Aviation Center is a must see. The entrance to the center is a reproduction of the final Wright Cycle Company shop (the original was moved to the Ford Museum) with additions that quickly lead visitors through the history of the Wright Brothers and their accomplishments. There is a nice audiovisual program about the tests they conducted to create the Wright Flyer III. The highlight, however, is the original Wright Flyer III itself. Since it sits on a sunken floor, instead of hanging from the air, you get a great view of the airplane and you are much closer to it then any other exhibit including the Smithsonian.
7) The Dayton Cyclery had a fascinating collection of early bicycles. Included are a combination bicycle/motorcycle that has a small engine attached to the rear wheel, a folding bicycle used by paratroopers during the first world war, and a bicycle with a built-in radio powered by the bicycle itself.
8) Lock No 17 of the Miami and Erie Canal is noteworthy only to highlight the extent of the effort they went through since the lock had to deconstructed and moved here from the canal which is actually a couple of miles away from the park. They even dug out a ditch and created a short towpath!
9) The Great 1913 Flood Exhibit Building gives a great accounting of this terrible event that occurred in the winter. Not only was the entire city under water, but they had to contend with freezing temperatures and snow! The exhibit is very well done not only giving the history of the event, but also stories of the acts of heroism. For instance, NCR quickly constructed hundreds of john boats to use in the rescue efforts beginning a day after the flood. The also include the system of dams and levies they put in place following the flood to hopefully never have to live through another one.