Thomas Edison National Historical Park | PARK AT A GLANCE

Main Laboratory Building museum

Main Laboratory Building museum

PARK OVERVIEW

Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, New Jersey, preserves Thomas Edison’s research laboratory complex, which was built in 1887, and his home in the historic Llewellyn Park subdivision. Visitors are welcome to tour the massive museum in the Main Laboratory Building on their own and join a park Ranger for a tour of the Chemistry Laboratory and Edison’s mansion, Glenmont. The interiors of the Chemical Storage and Pattern Stamp building and the Blacksmith Shop can be viewed from the doorways. Rangers also give a short lecture on the Black Maria, Edison’s rotating movie studio.

Edison’s empire included the surrounding West Orange manufacturing plant where he mass produced his inventions once they were ready for the retail market. These buildings were never part of Thomas Edison National Historical Park, and except for the battery factory on the other side of Lakeside Avenue, all were torn down in the early 1970s. The battery factory was recently converted into apartments and retail space.

The park represents the largest collection of Thomas Edison-related materials in the world, and it is the third largest museum in the United States National Park system. There are over 300,000 items and 5 million documents. The collection focuses on the inventions perfected at the West Orange facility—the phonograph, motion picture camera, and alkaline battery—which is why you won’t find much about the light bulb. Edison created a commercially viable bulb at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. Once his operation outgrew that facility, he built the complex here at West Orange.

Shortly after Edison’s death in 1931, the Laboratory Complex was closed and used as a storage facility, though the rest of the West Orange plant continued to operate as usual. Thomas A. Edison, Inc., the parent of the dozens of companies started by Edison over the years, remained in business until merging with McGraw Electric in 1957 to become McGraw-Edison Company. This was subsequently purchased by Cooper Industries in 1985, which itself was purchased by the Eaton Corporation in 2012.

After World War II, the lab was converted into a museum that operated until being donated to the National Park Service in 1955, though the Thomas Edison National Historic Site wasn’t created until 1962. All of the equipment, early inventions, and other memorabilia remained in place, leaving the park much as it was when Edison roamed the grounds. In 2003, the Main Laboratory, of which only the first floor was open to the public, was closed for renovation until 2009. When it reopened, not only did all three floors have exhibits, but the park also had a new name: Thomas Edison National Historical Park.


OPERATING HOURS

LABORATORY COMPLEX AND VISITOR CENTER

July 4 – Labor Day weekend: Wednesday through Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM

Day after Labor Day until July 3: Wednesday through Sunday from 10 AM to 4 PM

GLENMONT MANSION

The only way to see the inside of the Glenmont Mansion is on a Ranger-guided tour. The tours are given on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from mid-March through December at various times. The schedule is posted on the Operating Hours and Seasons web page for Thomas Edison National Historical Park.

The entire park is closed on Thanksgiving, December 24th and 25th, and New Year’s Day.


FEES

There is a fee to enter Thomas Edison National Historical Park for those over the age of 16. This is paid at the Visitor Center located near the entrance to the Laboratory Complex. Tickets are good for seven days. For the current prices, see the National Park Service’s Fees and Passes web page.

The fee includes a tour of the Glenmont Mansion. However, you must get a ticket at the Visitor Center.

You can also rent an audio tour device for an extra fee if you really want to learn about Edison, his inventions, and his West Orange complex. This is highly recommended.


SCHEDULING YOUR TIME

Laboratory Complex
allow up to 3.5 hours

Glenmont Mansion and Grounds
allow 1 hour


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Last updated on May 18, 2020
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