The Thomas Edison National Historical Park serves as a living testament to the boundless creativity of one of America’s greatest inventors. Preserving both Edison’s laboratory and his elegant residence, Glenmont, this park provides a captivating glimpse into the mind of a genius.
In 1887, the iconic inventor enlisted the architectural prowess of Henry Hudson Holly to design these historic sites. For over four remarkable decades, the Edison laboratories hummed with innovation, birthing countless groundbreaking inventions that would shape the course of history. It was here that the motion picture camera, improved phonographs, sound recordings, and silent and sound movies were born, alongside the revolutionary nickel-iron alkaline electric storage battery.
The park comprises two distinguished properties in West Orange: the second Edison Laboratories complex and Edison’s cherished home in Llewellyn Park, located just half a mile to the west. These locations bear witness to Edison’s relentless pursuit of knowledge across a spectrum of disciplines, from electricity and photography to motion pictures, chemistry, and metallurgy.
Within the laboratory complex, visitors are transported back in time as they explore the industrial facility where Edison’s remarkable inventions took shape. More than a dozen buildings were dedicated to research, each supporting the inventor’s endeavors. The main laboratory building boasted a private library, while specialized heavy and precision machine shops produced tooling and prototypes. Notably, Edison’s Black Maria, the world’s first movie studio, resided here. Its unique turntable design allowed the structure to pivot and capture sunlight for filming.
Edison’s own residence, a splendid Queen Anne style home, designed by Henry Hudson Holly, was originally constructed between 1880 and 1882 for Henry Pedder. This mansion, boasting 23 rooms, showcased advanced amenities like gravity-convection central heating, indoor flush toilets, and hot and cold piped water—an architectural marvel of its time. Edison acquired Glenmont in 1886 for $125,000 (equivalent to over $4 million in 2023), moving in with his second wife, Mina, and his three children from his first marriage. The house’s Eastlake style interior retains its original furnishings and the enhancements introduced by Edison, including electrical wiring.
Glenmont holds a special place in history as it witnessed the upbringing of Edison’s children with Mina, including the future New Jersey governor, Charles Edison, and the accomplished industrialist, Theodore Miller Edison.
Designated as the Edison Home National Historic Site in 1955 and the Edison Laboratory National Monument in 1956, the 21-acre site containing both the home and the laboratory officially became the Edison National Historic Site on September 5, 1962. To alleviate any confusion between the Edison sites in West Orange and Edison, New Jersey, it was renamed the Thomas Edison National Historical Park on March 30, 2009. After extensive renovations to the laboratory complex, a grand reopening was celebrated on October 10, 2009.
Today, as you stroll down Main Street in West Orange, New Jersey, the serene atmosphere conceals the vibrant history that once thrived within these brick walls. It’s a place where machinery ran on belts and pulleys, and the sweet strains of music filled the air from phonographs. A visit to Thomas Edison National Historical Park is a journey back in time, where you can walk in the footsteps of America’s greatest inventor and witness the transformation of our world through innovation.
The Thomas Edison National Historical Park is a located at 211 Main Street in West Orange, New Jersey.
If you enjoyed reading this post or have visited the Thomas Edison National Historical Park before, leave a comment below or share this post on your favorite social media!