Tuesday, Jul 1, 2008
To commemorate the completion of a $400,000 renovation of the monument at Wright Brothers National Memorial, the First Flight Foundation, the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce and the National Park Service co-sponsored a ribbon cutting event that was attended by over 200 people on June 25th.
The monument sits atop Big Kill Kevil Hill and overlooks the historic flight line of the first powered flights of December 17, 1903. From this hill, the Wright brothers had conducted over 1,000 successful glider flights between 1900 and 1902.
The cornerstone for the monument was laid during the 25th anniversary of the first powered flights. Orville Wright was the guest of honor at the cornerstone laying in 1928, along with Amelia Earhart, who had just recently become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. Four years later, on November 19, 1932, Orville returned for the dedication of this national monument; by then, his brother Wilbur had been dead for twenty years. At that time of its completion, this was the largest monument ever dedicated to a living human being in America.
The monument restoration began on December 18, 2007 (the day after the 104th anniversary of the first heavier than air powered flight). The First Flight Foundation fully funded the project, which included cleaning the interior and exterior of the granite pylon from top to bottom, repointing the exterior mortar, painting the stairs, and renovating the electrical and mechanical systems. A redesigned lighting system mirrors the original lighting, which at night improves the contrast and highlights the beautifully carved granite âwingsâ on the exterior surface of the monument. The dome and beacon at the top of the monument, 161 feet above sea level, were also cleaned and reworked for maximum efficiency.
The monument has been restored to first-class condition and the underlying moisture issues that were causing much of the deterioration have been corrected. The renovations allow the NPS for the first time in 25 years to provide park visitors with regular opportunities to access the monumentâs observation platform during special events and during a new regularly scheduled interpretive program called the Monument to the Dream Tour. After the ribbon cutting ceremony, a long line of visitors waited patiently for their turn to climb to the top.