Thousands of people fly down Route 27 every day, stopping at the light to turn into Metropark's train station center and the adjoining corporate facilities. Many of them have no idea that right across the street, the Wizard of Menlo Park toiled on inventions that affect their lives to this day.
After years of renovation and fundraising, the world-famous lightbulb tower - the Art Deco monument that marks the spot where Thomas Alva Edison first invented the first commerically practical incandescent lightbulb - will be reopened to the public.
The Edison Memorial Tower Corporation (EMTC) announced that the tower and new museum facility on the grounds of 36 acres of Edison State Park will reopen on Saturday, June 9. An 11 am ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned, followed by tours of the renovated facility every half hour from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm.
The complex at 37 Christie Street is on the Edison side of Route 27, within walking distance of Iselin's Metropark. Christie Street was also the first street that was ever lit up by streetlights, courtesy of the famous inventor.
For years, the tower has been off limits to the public, cordoned off by a cyclone fence, while the EMTC had appraisals of its condition done and hunted around to find sponsors and donors for the estimated $3 million it would take to renovate and restore the tower and expand the attached museum.
Built in 1937, the Art Deco tower with the huge glass lightbulb at the top was an iconic symbol for Edison Township as a memorial for its most prominent son. Edison, in fact, was original known as Raritan Township. The township changed its name to honor Edison in 1954.
The tower was constructed of 2-inch reinforced precast concrete panels. The panels were assembled in stages and bound to a wooden structure, and concrete was poured between that and the precast panels to make a solid design.
Edison the inventor came to Menlo Park in 1876 to set up a complex of laboratories in which crews of inventors and workmen would focus on aspects of his various designs. Over the course of his lifetime, Edison obtained almost 1,100 patents.
While at Menlo Park, Edison's team applied for 400 patents for a huge variety of inventions.
His first major invention developed in Menlo Park was the phonograph, although most people today wouldn't recognize the round cylinder, covered in tin foil, to be a recording device. Edison himself recorded the first words ever onto the cylinder: the children's nursery rhyme, Mary Had a Little Lamb.
In the six years Edison had his laboratories facilities at Menlo Park, his team of inventors applied for more than 400 patents on a huge variety of inventions. Edison moved his workshops to West Orange in 1882, and most of the buildings at Menlo Park deterioriated after being used for housing and chicken coops.
Edison returned to Menlo Park in 1925 when the first tower was dedicated to his work there. His close friend, Henry Ford, moved two of the remaining buildings to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan in 1929 as part of his reconstruction of Edison's Menlo Park laboratory complex.
For those wishing to visit the tower and museum on opening day, reservations are recommended. Call 732-494-4194 for more information.