Alex Heckman, vice-president of museum operations for Dayton History, looks over newly discovered messages written on plaster at Hawthorn Hill, Orville Wright's Oakwood mansion. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Photo: LISA POWELL / STAFF
Photo: LISA POWELL / STAFF

Hidden messages have been discovered in Orville Wright’s Oakwood mansion 

Days before Orville Wright moved into his new mansion, Hawthorn Hill, a local draper was finishing up work inside the grand Oakwood home. 

He picked up a pencil and with a flourish scrawled across the plaster wall in the living room, “This entire floor put up by F. Lutzenberger, April, 12 / 1914.” 

Then he finished his job, covering the walls and the writing with damask. 

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Messages written on plaster at Hawthorn Hill, Orville Wright's Oakwood mansion, have been discovered. This portion reads 'This entire floor put up by F. Lutzenberger, April, 12 / 1914.' LISA POWELL / STAFF
Photo: LISA POWELL / STAFF

Recently the nearly 106-year-old signature — and a second written in 1949 — were discovered during maintenance on the historic house. 

“We were amazed that it was still here,” Alex Heckman, vice president of museum operations for Dayton History, said. “I couldn’t believe it. The preservation contractor was beside himself.” 

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When Orville Wright, his sister Katharine and their father Bishop Milton Wright moved into the home, the walls were covered in a gold damask. 

Hawthorn Hill, the Wright family home in Oakwood, was completed in 1914. Though Orville and Wilbur were both involved with the planning, Wilbur died before it was completed. Wilbur lived there with his sister Katharine and their father Bishop Milton Wright. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Photo: LISA POWELL / STAFF

The fabric, later removed in the living room and covered with wall liner, hid the writing until now. 

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Heckman pulled out the Dayton city directory from 1913-1914 and found a listing for Frank Lutzenberger, who had a home on West Second Street and a drapery business at 30 N. Main St. 

“I feel confident that Orville had no idea that this ‘graffiti’ was on the wall since it was covered up before they moved in on April 28,” Heckman said. 

Alex Heckman, vice-president of museum operations for Dayton History, looks over newly discovered messages written on plaster at Hawthorn Hill, Orville Wright's Oakwood mansion. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Photo: LISA POWELL / STAFF

National Cash Register purchased Hawthorn Hill in 1948 to use as a corporate guest house after Wright died. An interior designer from New York City was brought in to redecorate the home. 

 

Also discovered next to the 1914 signature was a message from the designer, “Remodeled by Clem Welty Deiter 1949,” and almost as an afterthought, “NCR” has been added. 

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Hawthorn Hill is a National Historic Landmark and while much is known about the house, this new detail about the local draper was unknown. 

A 1948 view of the living room at Hawthorn Hill with the walls covered in gold damask. Recently the signature of the draper who installed the wall covering was discovered. NCR ARCHIVE
Photo: NCR ARCHIVE

Glass will be installed over the messages so that guests can view another aspect of the home’s history through a “window into the past,” Heckman said. 

“A draper in Dayton puts his message and his name up on the wall not knowing if anyone would ever see it. Here we are 106 years later looking at it and finding out more information about him,” Heckman said.

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