Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Moraine: The Dayton-Wright Era

We've seen the 1920 land divisions. By this time there where things actually on the property.

In 1916 or 1917 Delco-Light, AKA the Domestic Engineering Company, built a plant out here. I think they had a plant already in Dayton, on the Tech Town site, so this might have been the second plant. Delco-lite was Charles Ketterings solution to rural electrification via private generators for individual farms.

However, the plant never went into production. The empty factory was purchased by Dayton-Wright Aircraft, expanded, and fitted out for aircraft production.

The first section of Moraine City was platted by this time, too. Dayton-Wright was not the only industry , being joined by a foundry and a boiler factory.The foundry sometime before 1940, looking down the inturban tracks.
The foundry survives to this day as something to do with industrial gasses and welding.

..the last industrial survivor from the beginnings of Moraine.

The "Smith Gas Engineering" plant was a big high-bay erecting shop with flanking side shops, sort of like a large version of the old Foundry Nightclub building
The factory was later used as the shops and offices for the interurban, by this time renamed the C&LE.

The largest plant, and ancestor to todays Moraine Assembly, was the Dayton-Wright plant. There are no good exterior pix of the place, but it was apparently a long one story building, perhaps with interior mezzanines.

What's interesting from this photo is the woodworking aspect, the lack of auto parking, and the military presence since the predecessor of the Air Force was active here in helping with the engineering as well as perhaps furnishing the pilots to fly the finished planes out of Moraine.
A close up of the Sanborn showing the same area of the plant in the pix.

And the entire Sanborn. Maybe not visible here, but there is extensive use of clerestory roofs to maximize daylighting. Not energy efficient, but the plant had it's own steam system to provide heat.
This Sanborn has quite a bit of labeling of the industrial activity taking place in the factory spaces. One can see kilns and lumber sheds, indicating they were drying out green lumber before cutting it up into parts (or maybe they stuck the parts in the kilns).
The labeling permits this hypothetical reconstruction of the industrial process at the plant. One can see that since aircraft were built of wood there was a big woodworking aspect to the process to make the parts that would be eventually go into sub-assemblies, which would the be put together in final assembly.

There were two Dayton-Wright plants in area, a components plant in nearby Miamisburg, and the former Wright Brothers plant in West Dayton. I think they got engines and engine parts from Detroit, too.

An example of final assembly, where sub-assemblies are put together into the final product (and note the generous daylighting).

The final product: a DeHavilland observer/bomber plane (a British design). Over 4,000 aircraft were built in Moraine during WWI.

Dayton-Wright had Orville Wright on staff but had no direct connection to the Wright Brothers early manufacturing activity. The principles where the Delco-Light founder Charles Kettering, and NCR executives Edward Deeds and Charles Talbot. Dayton-Wright was sold to GM in 1919 and GM got out of the aircraft business in 1923. Deeds remained active in aviation as one of the founders and chairman of the board of Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines.

It's unclear whether aircraft manufacturing ceased in 1920 or 1923. But shortly after WWI the Dayton-Wright principles tried to interest the miltary in the property as a replacement to McCook Field. Preliminary plans were drawn up incoporating the Dayton-Wright plant into a new aviation research facility/airfield.

This was not pursued. Moraine did not replace McCook. McCooks replacement was built in the late 1920s to the east of the city, not south; todays Wright Field.

The empty plant at Moraine was to be put to other uses.


Anonymous said...

Jeff, very interesting, as usual. I wanted to point out an even earlier remnant that shows up (although you have to use some imagination) in the aerial view of the Dayton-Wright plant, if you blow it up. If you follow the dirt road to the left (north) of the power plant that leads towards the RR and main assembly building, you can see, just before the tracks, that it goes over something, which I believe are the remains of the Snyder Mill lock (Lock 22) on the Miami & Erie Canal--obviously the canal having been abandoned and the mill having been torn down by the time the photo was taken. There is a photo of the mill and lock in Conover's History of Dayton.

Jefferey said...

Excellent. I know of another mill/lock set just south of this site and will be blogging on it. This will be something to add to that post.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating! So Moraine could have been developed into a counterpart to WPAFB. Wow! Who woulda thunk.

Jeffrey, I think I have asked you this before, but do you know anything about a "powder plant" (making ordnance like explosive powders for military purposes) that was located on Springboro Pike about a mile or two south of the target area (close to the current "Habitat" condos)?

Anonymous said...

Jeff, if the other lock/mill you are going to be posting on is the Dryden mill and lock at Holes Creek(where there also was a great double arch stone culvert over the creek), let me know, because I've got a couple of photos of the lock and mill that I don't think have been published.

Dave N.