Wright Brothers National Memorial visitor center is reopening. Here’s a look.

A 16-screen video wall will help visitors appreciate the Wrights’ work.
A 16-screen video wall will help visitors appreciate the Wrights’ work. National Park Service

The Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills will reopen its visitor center Oct. 20 after a nearly two-year renovation that updated everything in the building, from plumbing and electrical to visitor exhibits.

The National Park Service will celebrate the reopening with a day of special events and free admission for all visitors.

In the renovated space, visitors will get a look at the lives of Orville and Wilbur Wright, exploring their characters, diving into problems they solved and the methods they used that ultimately led to their first flight on Dec. 17, 1903. Exhibits include a reproduction of the Wrights’ bicycle shop and a demonstration of how the twisting of a bicycle inner tube box inspired the concept of wing-warping in flight.

This new exhibit case will show a reproduction of the Wrights’ bicycle shop. National Park Service

Along the journey, visitors will encounter people who helped the inventive brothers, including Katharine Wright, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Charles Taylor.

The park service’s southeast regional director, Robert Vogel, and National Parks of Eastern North Carolina Superintendent David Hallac will give speeches beginning at 9:30 a.m. The park will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony, after which Dare County 4th-graders and their families will be the first visitors allowed in to see the new exhibits on aviation and historic preservation, and participate in new activities related to science, technology, engineering arts and math.

A schedule of the day’s events can be found here.

The site of the Wright brothers’ flight was initially set aside as a national monument in 1927, and the next year a granite marker was placed at the approximate takeoff site. In 1932, a 60-foot-high pylon was erected nearby, on the top of Big Kill Devil Hill, to commemorate the brothers and their achievement.

The Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2001. National Park Service

The visitor center was added at the site in 1960 and the building met critical acclaim that the park service said took many by surprise. It became a national showcase and helped legitimize the use of modern architectural style in national parks. According to its National Historic Landmark nomination, the visitor center is one of the four most significant examples of the particular strain of American modern architecture that can be described as Park Service Modern.

Renovation of the 9,900-square-foot center cost between $5 million and $6 million.

With its reopening, visitors will again be able to see a reproduction of the 1903 Wright Flyer that made history at the site.

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