Thomas Edison's Home in New Jersey is a Glimpse Into the Great Inventor's Life!
Thomas Edison, one of America's greatest inventors, lived for more than four decades in a 29-room mansion called Glenmont in the exclusive Llewellyn Park neighborhood of West Orange, New Jersey, a short distance from the laboratory complex where he did most of his inventing.The house is open to guided tours, and it's a great chance to see what home life must have been like for the world-famous Edison and his family. Here are some highlights from a recent visit to Glenmont by our family.
UPDATE: On a return visit I was finally able to see the inside of Thomas Edison's garage, so please scroll down for new details and photos on his cars!
Thomas Edison Buys an Embezzler's Home!
Chosen By His Second Wife
The tour of the house begins at the front door (naturally!) and the park ranger who is our guide tells us that the red brick and wood mansion was built in 1880 by a clerk who had embezzled the money to pay for it! designed by architect Henry Hudson Holly, the house is in the American Queen Anne style that was popular at that time.
Edison bought the house in 1886 for $125,000, less than half what it cost to build, after the clerk was forced to give up the house when he was caught. It was a wedding gift to his second wife. Edison's first wife had died and when he remarried he gave his wife the choice of a home in the country or an apartment in New York City. The ranger says the young bride Mina, knowing that Edison was a workaholic, chose a house in the country because she knew that otherwise she'd never see her husband!
Thomas Edison Biographies - An Inventor's Life
Thomas Edison led a fascinating life as an inventor (he held 1,093 patents when he died). The phonograph and the incandescent light bulb are only two of the everyday things he developed, and he spent the vast majority of his life looking into new ways and things that could benefit mankind. I have always found him very inspiring, and I'm sure you would too. Here are some biographies of the inventor if you want to know more about him.
Animal Rugs and Stained Glass Windows
The Upper Class Life of Edison
Inside the home the first thing you notice is a large stained glass window on the balcony straight ahead depicting Penelope awaiting Ulysses' return from the Greek mythology. The ranger explains that the stuffed animal heads and rugs came with the house and that Edison himself wasn't a hunter.
Off to one side is the library filled with rows and rows of books, many of them fiction that had been popular during Edison's time. Edison never read them, our guide tells us, because he considered fiction a waste of time! As you tour the ground floor you get the sense that the Edisons lived what would be a classic upper-class lifestyle, with Mina entertaining ladies for tea. There's a large semi-circular drawing room with windows that could be taken out during the summer, but that was heated to care for the houseplants during the winter.
The photo here is from a collection taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey of the National Park Service. Taken in 1963, the photo is in the public domain according to my reading of the HABS website.
Edison's 'Think Desk' and Bedroom
Playing Parcheesi with the Children
Upstairs, it is interesting to note that Edison's bedroom wasn't the largest in the house. (The biggest was reserved for the many house guests that came to visit). Instead, the Edisons preferred a smaller one that had larger windows because Mina loved bird watching and that room had the best views of the grounds. Edison died in this bed in 1931 at age 84.
According to the national park some of the overnight guests included Orville Wright, Helen Keller and Henry Ford. Our guide tells us that the King of Siam visited the Edisons but didn't stay in the mansion because there wasn't enough space for his large entourage!
Edison had six children, three with each wife. The children's bedrooms that we saw were nice and probably very appropriate for the age, but not very memorable. More interesting is the upstairs family room, where Edison had his ''think desk.'' As a notorious workaholic, he would often excuse himself from parties and guests by saying he wasn't feeling well then retire to this upstairs room to work on his latest creation.
Our guide points out a Parcheesi game all set up to play. Edison liked to play with his children, but wasn't above bending the rules on occasion to make sure he won!
The photo is from a collection taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey of the National Park Service. Taken in 1963, the photo is in the public domain according to my reading of the HABS website.
The Grand Servants' Area
An Area Where Edison Probably Never Ventured
The tour goes down the back stairs to the servants' work area, consisting of the kitchen, laundry room and servants dining room. It's neat to look at all the old-fashioned laundry and kitchen gadgets and equipment, knowing that they were probably the latest technology available in those days.
But the real surprise is the room where the servants ate and could relax while waiting for the bell that called them to service. It's a very nicely appointed room, with its own phonograph and piano, and looks more like the main room of a middle-class apartment than a servants' area. The guide tells us that Edison believed servants should be well treated and well paid, and I believe it. I do find it hard to accept the guide's assurance that neither Thomas or Mina probably ever ventured into these quarters. It seems like such an odd way of life.
The dining room could seat 30 people, and judging from the silverware that is shown they were certainly treated grandly as well.The pan and brush used to clear crumbs off the table alone probably cost more than the servants' made in a year! The Edisons lived under Victorian rules, which meant that the children had their own table to one side to eat at. Also, be sure to check out the wonderful Tiffany lamp!
The inside tour ends in a den that Mina turned into a mini-showcase for some of her husband's inventions after his death. It's neat to see some of the equipment sitting among the plush chairs and curtains of the day. Make sure the tour guide tells you the surprising story of the room's ceiling!
This photo of the dining room looking toward the den is from a collection taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey of the National Park Service. Taken in 1963, the photo is in the public domain according to my reading of the HABS website.
Buy Some of Edison's Plants!
After the tour of the house you can wander some of the estate's 13.5 acres, including the family greenhouses and potting shed (built in 1909).
The greenhouse area apparently was much larger when the Edisons were alive, with roses, orchids, snapdragons and many other plants and flowers being grown. What is left didn't strike me as anything special, butt one nice thing is that there are plants for sale. Something Edison's greenhouse would be a great souvenir or gift for someone!
Thomas Edison's Words to Live By
Thomas Edison believed very strongly in the power of perseverance, as evident in his famous response when someone suggested he failed after numerous attempts to develop the light bulb: ''I have not failed. I just found ten thousand ways that won't work.''
I have also heard the quote with the simple ''one thousand,'' but that doesn't matter. It's still a great philosophy about never giving up.
Thomas Edison's Garage
The Yankee Stadium Connection!
The garage was closed during our third visit to Glenmont, as it had been the other two times we were there. At the end of the house tour I mentioned that to the park ranger at the home's front door, and he was kind enough to say he'd walk our group down for a very fast visit!
Inside the garage were several cars that belonged to Edison, including early electric versions that he was trying hard to commercialize (mainly because they would be powered by his Edison batteries. The guy was a businessman after all.)
The electric cars never caught on, in part because they needed charging too often and because gasoline at the time was much cheaper. The ranger also said the price tag of a 1914 electric car was $2,500, compared to $500 for a Model T. That alone would make the electric versions a tough sell.
The floor of the garage had a turntable that would help park the cars, but it had been damaged during a prank by one of Edison's sons and so doesn't work anymore.
One thing that is interesting to note is that both the garage and the potting shed were built with the Portland cement that Edison was developing to showcase his belief that concrete houses were the future. Unfortunately, the molds he used were too complex so the housebuilding was never a viable business (there are some sample concrete homes in Union, New Jersey, built using Edison's methods.)
By the way, the cement business was never one of Edison's most profitable ones, and is mainly remembered for having provided the material for the original Yankee Stadium in the 1920s.
The Cars in Thomas Edison's Garage! - 100-Year-Old Electric Cars!
Edison's Final Resting Place
A Simple Grave for a Great Man!
A short distance from the year of the house are the final resting places of Thomas and Mina Edison.
Edison was first buried in a nearby cemetery after his 1931 death, with Mina continuing to live in the house until she died in 1947 and was laid to rest beside him. The two were moved to their current graves in 1963.
The gravestones are quite plain and simple, and if you are running short of time they can be skipped.
Thomas Edison's Laboratory
The Famous Research and Development Complex
Glenmont is one half of the national park in West Orange, with Edison's laboratory complex being the other half. It is easy to see everything in one day, and one admission price covers both. I wrote about our laboratory visit in a separate lens, and I hope you check it out!
Thomas Edison's Laboratory: A New Jersey Family Day Trip!
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Have You Toured Thomas Edison's Home?
My family and I really enjoyed our tour of Edison's home. Have you ever visited Glenmont, or do you plan to? If yes, what did you think? If no, why not?
More Information On Thomas Edison and Glenmont - To Help Plan Your Visit!
Here are some websites that have more information about Thomas Edison, the park and Glenmont to help you plan your visit.
- Cell Phone Guide of Glenmont
The National Park Service offers 21 short audios that you can listen to in preparation to visiting Glenmont or when you are on the grounds. This is the website for those recordings.
- Official Web site
This is the U.S. National Park Service's official web site for the park.
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I wrote this review because I want people to know about this great place to visit. What do you think about this review, Glenmont, Thomas Edison or anything else that I've mentioned. Here's your chance to speak up!
What do you think? - Now it's your turn!
Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on April 19, 2014:
Putting this in my FB page Hand In Glove With History and my blog handinglovewithhistory.blogspot.com, and thanks so very much for this excellent trip through a historical life and home.
JacobSmith01 on March 21, 2014:
I found this lens about Edison's place in Glenmont really fascinating! Thanks for the mini tour :)
Makes me want to plan a visit with the kids one of these days. Didn't realize his dining table could fit that many people!
Heidi Vincent from GRENADA on March 19, 2014:
Nice tour, goldenrulecomics! I enjoyed both of the Edison lenses because I am fascinated by him and his inventions. Congratulations on your well-deserved Purple Star for this lens!
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on January 29, 2014:
Interesting. I have not seen Edison's house before.
KimGiancaterino on January 26, 2014:
I would love to do a tour of Thomas Edison's home. He has always been one of my heroes.
ismeedee on January 26, 2014:
I love visiting old houses of famous people! Thomas Edison's house looks so much like Mark Twain's in Hartford, Connecticut!
marsha32 on January 23, 2014:
What a fantastic place to have the opportunity to visit!!
WriterJanis2 on January 22, 2014:
How beautiful I would love to visit that home. What history it has with so many famous people who have stayed there.
Jill Hart from Weston, Idaho on January 22, 2014:
I never even knew his home was still around! Thanks for sharing this
David Stone from New York City on January 22, 2014:
It's a great introduction to the site and certainly will stir interest in going.
CruiseReady from East Central Florida on January 22, 2014:
It is a place I would love to visit some day. The size and elegance of the house was a bit of a surprise to me.
Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on January 22, 2014:
What a gorgeous mansion that I'd love to visit some day. I'd love to also see that stained glass widnow you spoke of. Great lens and congrats on a well deserved purple star.
Leah J. Hileman from East Berlin, PA, USA on January 20, 2014:
Stopped back to show some love on this great lens. Last time I was here, I was living in Lee County just a few miles from Thomas Edison's Florida home. Now I'm up in Gettysburg and doing a day trip to Glenmont is suddenly doable! Great lens.
Barbara Walton from France on December 10, 2013:
I went to Queen Anne School in York - built in this style and I've always loved it. Great house and great story. I loved finding out more about Edison.
Carolan Ross from St. Louis, MO on November 26, 2013:
I'd be thrilled to visit this place in Glenmont, have always admired Thomas Edison. Nice tribute to him.
RHKnight on November 07, 2013:
That is so cool you got to see a grand home with so much story to it. A very intelligent man who shaped technology deserves respect, I wish to visit someday although I am hardly ever in that part of the country. Thanks for sharing your tour for the less fortunate like me though. I adore the 77th birthday photo with the lab instrumentation in the foreground. Perfect illustration selection throughout, cheers!
Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on August 07, 2013:
I would love to visit Glenmont, Thomas Edison's home. It sounds so interesting. Thanks for this tour.
lesliesinclair on July 28, 2013:
Visiting old buildings is thunderously interesting to me. I love all the old quality materials and the stately designs. Of course, if the individual is a great thinker and inventor, that makes it all the more enjoyable.
Matthewsmom on June 04, 2013:
I have been there, and it is so amazing. We loved the old pool and the skating rink. We saw where they were laid to rest and the bed his wife gave birth and died in. The cars in the garage were cool too. Amazing trip, well worth it. So was the lab.
Cynthia Haltom from Diamondhead on May 02, 2013:
I haven't toured Edison house, but I visited Greenfield Village and toured the historical home of many great people of the past
norma-holt on February 24, 2013:
Beautiful piece of history. Have watched Spencer Tracy doing the role of Edison a few times and that filled me in on the background of your story, Featured on Blessed by Skiesgreen 2013.
AlleyCatLane on February 05, 2013:
Sounds like a fascinating tour. I'd love to see the place someday. Blessed.
alexilady lm on December 13, 2012:
Edison was a genius but Tesla was a bigger genius
writerkath on October 30, 2012:
Wow! This is a great idea for a day trip! I grew up in northern NJ, and never even knew about this. I'll have to tell my sister about this. She still lives in NJ and might enjoy this!
bhent_fadri on October 15, 2012:
super lens ... do you want to teach me like your lens
Leah J. Hileman from East Berlin, PA, USA on August 26, 2012:
I live just over the river from Edison's Winter Estate in Fort Myers. Thanks for teaching me about his other half!
anonymous on July 29, 2012:
Oh my, I would love to take a tour. Thank you for this article, its informative. :)
Virginia Allain from Central Florida on June 18, 2012:
I went to Fort Myers, Florida and saw the Edison/Ford complex there. Would be fascinating to see his other home. Nice online tour, thank you.
getmoreinfo on March 20, 2012:
What a great tour of thomas edison house, I would love to go visit.
tomaztt on March 09, 2012:
it looks like a good place to see
sousababy on March 05, 2012:
Love to go someday.
Alan future on March 03, 2012:
Very interesting lens.The information was very interesting.
poutine on February 26, 2012:
A great place to visit someday....
Zut Moon on February 16, 2012:
happynutritionist on February 15, 2012:
Excellent lens, thanks for adding it to the list on my NJ Quiz page *blessed*
Annamadagan on February 13, 2012:
This looks like a cool place to visit. Thanks for all the great pics, and info! Nice lens.
poppy mercer from London on February 13, 2012:
I used his genius quote but the other day...thanks for a great tour.
goldenrulecomics (author) from New Jersey on February 12, 2012:
@anonymous: I'm really glad you liked the house. I really find it quite fascinating...
anonymous on February 11, 2012:
I visited the house yesterday for the first time and it was well worth the visit, what a beautiful home. The garage also wasn't opened when we were there, they said we could peek in the window if we wanted, of course we did get to see the greenhouse complete with orchids. Love the info on your website! Thanks
catwell2 on January 01, 2012:
Neat lens. Lots of great info!
jadehorseshoe on December 29, 2011:
Great Lens! Very Informative.
Mary Crowther from Havre de Grace on November 30, 2011:
Beautiful and interesting place. Hope to go there sometime!
niceman91 lm on November 12, 2011:
nice post!keep it up! =)
anupma lm on November 02, 2011:
anonymous on October 10, 2011:
think it's a great piece of history, gave this unique lens a 'thumbs up'.
SaintFrantic on October 07, 2011:
Thanks great lens
Mary Beth Granger from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA on October 05, 2011:
Excellent lens...thanks for the interesting tour. Blessed
Iudit Gherghiteanu from Ozun on October 05, 2011:
Is he scottish, don't he?
very interesting lens, congrats for the blessing.
bernie74 lm on October 05, 2011:
Blessed by a Squid Angel!
amkatee on October 04, 2011:
Interesting lens. I love to hear about Edison and Helen Keller. It's cool knowing she visited him and I'm related to both of them. Well actually to Edison's first wife, but still it's interesting.