The Invention Factory, as Thomas Edison’s laboratory complex was known informally, is again open for business. Starting this weekend, Oct. 10-12, the National Park Service welcomes visitors to the Thomas Edison National Historical Park on Main Street in West Orange.
Admission is free of charge this weekend. Special events will take place at the Laboratory Complex on Main Street and the Glenmont Estate in Llewellyn Park from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day with extended hours on Saturday until 8 p.m.
“This is your opportunity to be among the first visitors to walk through the Main Street gate and explore the new site,” said Greg Marshall, superintendent at Thomas Edison National Historical Park. “The original music recording studio, Thomas Edison’s private laboratory, and a photography studio will be open to the public for the first time in the history of the site.”
Thomas Edison lived and worked in West Orange for much of his life; he and his family called Llewellyn Park home from 1886 until he died in 1931. He visited South Orange, most memorably in 1930. According to Naoma Welk, in "Images of America: South Orange," Edison drove the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western’s first electrified train from Hoboken to South Orange, just months before he died of complications from diabetes.
The renovation of his laboratory includes new heating and cooling systems, new fire detection and suppression systems, and structural repairs to the historic building’s roofs, foundations and windows. Visitors can see the facility in a few different ways, including self-guided audio tours, cell phone tours, films, grounds walks, school workshops and traditional Ranger-guided programs. The improvements also allow for more visitors to see more of the complex.
As locals who drive past the brick buildings that front Main Street, it’s easy to forget how large Edison’s workshops are. The new signage and improvements allow visitors to better sense the many directions in which Edison took his talents and those of his staff. “We’re all very excited,” said one National Park Ranger. “We hope many people come this weekend.”
Parking is across from the complex and is limited, but there is parking on local streets. The laboratory and Glenmont are about 15 minutes apart on foot, and some of the walk is hilly.