Thomas Edison’s Glenmont Home – a Showcase for Home Illumination

The main way to illuminate homes in the second half of the 1880s was through the use of oil lamps; or if the home was in the vicinity of a gas manufacturing plant, then gas became the fuel of choice for lighting the house. Much like we use natural gas today in our homes for heating, cooking and making hot water, at one time it was used to illuminate our homes. Open flames of gas were common in homes in urban areas, where gas manufacturing plants were usually located.

Here is how it worked. Coal was burned slowly at a gas manufacturing plant in what is known as a coking process (charred slowly in an oxygen starved environment). This drove off methane, the primary constituent of natural gas. Such low grade methane [about 500 Btu per cubic foot] was stored in large, cylindrical, steel containers that still may dot some urban area landscapes. This gas under pressure was then distributed to nearby homes and businesses for their use. If you lived in a suburban or rural area, you used oil lamps, maybe even candles, when the sun went down.

Large homes owned by people of means could rely on another method for gas illumination, a private system where a carbureted vapor fuel was made on-site and this vapor drawn into the home and used for illumination. One such system was called the Springfield Gas Machine, often used in large Victorian style homes of the period, including the Edison home, Glenmont, built in 1882. In the photo below, one sees the lovely Glenmont, a Queen Anne Victorian style mansion, with 29 ½ rooms.

Edison’s Glenmont home

Edison’s Glenmont home

About 100 feet away from this home an underground vault was located that contained a gasoline vaporizing system that connected with an air pump in the basement via underground piping. A large stone weight was cranked to a certain height in the basement of the home and this weight via mechanical gearing turned the centrifugal air pump, drawing gasoline vapors into the home to be used for illumination as needed. The diagram below shows the layout of the system. In the basement of Glenmont, one still sees the air pump and weight system remaining, along with the piping that led to the underground vault.

Thomas Edison’s Glenmont Home - a Showcase for Home Illumination


Edison purchased Glenmont in 1886, and soon bypassed the gasoline vapor system sometime in 1887/88, electrifying his beautiful home. The gasoline vapor system was most likely installed by the original famed architect of the home, Henry Hudson Holly. Edison installed underground electric lines from his nearby West Orange Labs-about ½ mile away. The massive home at one time had 500 light bulbs in service. Several large ceiling chandeliers originally designed for gas illumination have been converted to electricity and are in-service today at the mansion for visitors to see.

Original gas light chandelier at Glenmont [the library], long ago converted to electricity. Each bulb would have been an open flame.

Original gas light chandelier at Glenmont [the library], long ago converted to electricity. Each bulb would have been an open flame.

Thomas Edison on Time Magazine“The three things that are most essential to achievement are common sense, hard work and stick-to-it-iv-ness…..”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.

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Christmas at Glenmont -Thomas Edison’s Historic Home

Season’s Greetings from Glenmont. This 1882, 29 ½ room, Queen Ann Victorian mansion is the historic home of the Edison family; and this time of year, it is decked out in all the Christmas trimmings.

Christmas at Glenmont -Thomas Edison’s Historic Home

Check out the big, ten-foot Christmas tree in the first floor den. 

Christmas at Glenmont -Thomas Edison’s Historic Home

Stockings are hung by the chimney with care …

 

Christmas at Glenmont - Thomas Edison’s Historic Home
Found in the second floor living room

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays –  the Trustees and Staff at the Charles Edison Fund and the Edison Innovation Foundation,  from our offices in Newark , NJ.

Christmas at Glenmont - Thomas Edison’s Historic Home

 

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Help Restore the Edison Electric Cars

An historic treasure of Edison’s electric cars from the 1900-1914 period are awaiting restoration in the Edison garage. Check out this article, and suggested levels of giving below. Be a part of this restoration!

It was built in 1908, and to this day houses one of the earliest electric vehicle charging stations….testimony to Edison’s vision about the importance of electric vehicles and the ability to charge them at one’s residence. Energy savvy folks and writers opine today about electric vehicles being charged in one’s own garage, while Edison was doing it every day … four generations ago. The Edison garage remains home to a variety of the great inventor’s personal cars as well as his wife’s vehicles. This stately structure is on the grounds of his historic home Glenmont.

Front view of garage

Front view of garage

Mina Edison’s Personal Electric Vehicle

Mina Edison’s Personal Electric Vehicle

The Edison Innovation Foundation is busy developing plans to conserve this structure; and inaugurate a new education center for teachers and students on the second floor where visitors will learn about Mr. Edison, the Glenmont site, electric vehicles, practice STEM principles, do special design/invention challenges, and delve into the use and application of alternate energy technologies. The first floor of the structure can hold six vehicles. Special features of its construction include poured concrete walls, a vehicle turntable, a revolving overhead washing system with hose, a battery charging station and a gasoline pump. The second floor of the building once housed the Edison family live-in chauffer and his family.

Edison Battery charging station

Edison Battery charging station

Famous Edison Nickel-Iron Storage Batteries

Famous Edison Nickel-Iron Storage Batteries

Today, the building houses a:

  • 1908 Locomobile
  • 1911 Detroit Electric Model L-1
  • 1914 Detroit Electric Model 47
  • 1922 Ford Model T
  • 1936 Brewster (once belonged to Edison’s son- former. Gov. of NJ 1941-44)

These cars will be conserved, as well as the interior of the garage itself which will be cleaned and re-painted.

Ford Model T, a gift from Henry Ford

Ford Model T, a gift from Henry Ford

1936 Brewster, vehicle owned by Charles Edison

1936 Brewster, vehicle owned by Charles Edison

To show the immense advances in electric vehicles since Edison’s pioneering work, several new state-of-the-art electric vehicles will be obtained and displayed near the original vehicles; and have their own re-charging station. These vehicles will be used for transportation duties, visitor demonstrations, and educational purposes within the Thomas Edison National Historical Park [TENHP], which includes the Glenmont estate and garage.

Readers are encouraged to make a donation to underwrite this projected $2.5 million historic restoration effort-see suggested levels of giving below. We hope you will contribute to making this restoration project a success. Use the “Donate” button on this page, or directly contact the:

Edison Innovation Foundation
Riverfront Plaza
1037 Raymond Blvd.
STE #340
Newark, NJ 07102
973-648-0500

 

Thomas Edison on Time Magazine

We thank you on behalf of the 70,000 visitors who come every year to see the home of the world’s greatest inventor.

“Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.

Garage Restoration – Suggested Levels of Giving

Level 1: $1 – $999

  • Recognition of gift on website.
  • Commemorative “Thank You” letter.

Level 2: $1000 – $9999

  • Photograph of Donor with any Edison electric vintage car.
  • Recognition of gift on appropriate signage at the Edison Garage.

Level 3: $10,000 – $99,999

  • Photograph with any Edison electric vintage car.
  • Photograph at Edison’s original desk in his Library.
  • Your name/organization listed on www.edisonmuckers.org.
  • Recognition of gift on appropriate signage at the Edison Garage.

Level 4: $100,000 – $999,999

  • Photograph with any Edison electric vintage car.
  • Photograph at Edison’s original desk in his Library.
  • Your name/organization listed on www.edisonmuckers.org.
  • Recognition of gift on appropriate signage at the Edison Garage.
  • Cocktail party for ten (10) people chosen by you at the Edison Garage on the Edison home lawn including tent.  Drive and display your vintage car.

Level 5: $1 Million and above

  • All of the above.
  • Naming recognition of the Edison Garage with appropriate signage.
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