Edison’s West Orange Laboratory: “Where America Was Invented”
While Thomas Alva Edison is best known for inventing the phonograph, motion pictures and the nickel-iron alkaline battery, his greatest invention is arguably the first laboratory dedicated to the “business of inventing.” The Edison Laboratory Complex built in West Orange in the 1880s – 10 times larger than Menlo Park – became the standard for invention research laboratories everywhere.
The laboratory, along with Edison’s nearby estate, Glenmont, make up the Thomas Edison National Historical Park – a bucket-list stop for all fans of history, science, music and movies. Visitors can take self-guided or Ranger-led tours of the laboratory, viewing many of the original furnishings and equipment, prototypes and commercial versions of Edison products and more. A replica of the Black Maria, the first motion picture studio, is also located in the park.
A half-mile away stands Edison’s estate, an 1880 29-room brick and timber mansion known as Glenmont. The 18 acres of landscaped grounds feature a greenhouse, potting shed, barn, stables and a garage made of Edison poured concrete. Surrounded by the opulent Victorian furnishings popular in their day, this is where Edison and his second wife Mina Miller entertained the likes of Orville Wright, Helen Keller, the King of Siam and Edison’s good pal, Henry Ford. Thomas and Mina Edison are both buried on the grounds.
To tour Glenmont, visitors must stop at the Laboratory Complex, 211 Main St., to obtain tickets (available on a first-come, first served basis) as well as car passes to enter the gated Llewelyn Park community in which the estate is located.
The laboratory is open from September to July, Wednesday through Sunday from 10am to 4pm. Visit on Sunday, October 15 at 1pm or 3pm for "Harry's Magical Invention Bag" and hear from inventor Harry Roman as he discusses the role Edison and New Jersey played in the national invention scene.
For more information, visit the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov/edis.