Dayton – October 2015 – Packards and Gardens

A day in Dayton started with a stop at Wegerzyn Gardens, a Dayton Metro Park. These gardens contain a large formal gardens area, a children’s gardens, and some walking trails. While some of the summer color was gone, and the leaves had not yet changed in full force, there was enough to keep us entertained.

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We essentially had the place to ourselves which made it even more peaceful, walking amongst the well landscaped grounds with manicured shrubs, and sculptures near the Dayton Playhouse, which is on the grounds as well. Afterward we enjoyed lunch at a nice restaurant called Jimmie’s Ladder 11, in a restored fire house.

Going back to downtown Dayton we admired some of the local public sculptures celebration Dayton’s favorite sons, the Wright Brothers, including a very impressive sculpture in the middle of a street celebrating their initial, brief flight at Kitty Hawk with an exact replica of the height and distance of the flight (12 seconds long, 20′ high and going 120′).

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We moved on to the American Packard Museum, billed as the only Packard Museum operating in a restore Packard dealership. The building is beautiful, perfectly suited for it’s purpose and filled with amazing cars. The people working there appear to love their volunteer jobs and are very helpful, yet leave you to yourself enough to explore at our pace.

The original 20′ tall neon Packard Sign out front beckons you in to an award winning museum, having been named to numerous lists as one of the ‘top ten’ auto museums in the country. There are more than 50 cars on display. As we entered and I went into complete awe one of the volunteers showed us around the beautiful cars in the lobby sitting on the original tile floor.

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As you move from the showroom to the shop area you find even more vintage vehicles, as well as a restored parts counter. In most museums the cars in this section would be front and center, but here they are nicely displayed, but in the secondary area. We spent a long time admiring the classic Packard hood ornaments and other details like the wire spoke wheels.One was even sitting on the lift, ready to be raised.

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In the back corner of the garage area was a 1919 Packard flatbed truck. In a secondary garage they have a collection of miniatures, Packard memorabilia, artworks, small carved prototypes and other small items nicely displayed in well lit cases.

This secondary garage also had nice examples of 1940s and 1950s Packards including a woody station wagon (complete with a wooden Chris Craft boat), and the hearse used in the movie the Godfather. Finally there is a library with a large collection of books on Packards, and automotive topics in general. Without a doubt this was one of the best stops I have made, and recommend it not just to car people, but anyone who appreciates beautiful art, because these cars, and the building, are works of art.

Our last stop was the Huffman Flying Field. We had stopped here in the winter but at that time is was far too cold to explore. This day the weather was much nicer, so we made our way around the field where the Wright Brothers perfected flight. Included here is a restored ‘hanger’ and numerous signs pointing out what occurred. It was a bit unnerving though as a gun club has a range not far and you would constantly hear gunshots while you are out in the middle of this open field. All in all it was a very good day in Dayton.

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