A Step Back in Time

by Christine Adams Beckett

There are only about three and a half miles between Central Montclair and Thomas Edison National Historic Park in West Orange, New Jersey.  It is a place that has recently undergone extensive renovations, yet a visit will leave those touring the premises with the impression that curators turned the key after years of leaving the buildings just as they were when Edison passed, in 1931.  The new-and-improved labs opened to the public in 2009 after a $13 million renovation, but the work reflected more behind the scenes improvements: structural repairs to the roof and foundation, windows, fire detection and suppression systems, an elevator, heating and cooling systems.  Original furnishings were restored to their rightful places and the result is a very convincing impression: time travel is possible.

Stock Room at Thomas Edison National Park, containing every imaginable material necessary for endless tinkering.

Stock Room at Thomas Edison National Park, containing every imaginable material necessary for endless tinkering.

Heavy Machinery Room, which looks identical to historic photographs dated 1919.
Heavy Machinery Room, which looks identical to historic photographs dated 1919.

Derbies and coats hung next to wash sink in Heavy Machinery Room.
Hats and coats hung next to wash sink in Heavy Machinery Room.

Chemistry Lab with original desk.

Chemistry Lab with original desk.

A cot in Edison's private Library, where he would sleep for a few hours at time when necessary.  He rarely slept through the night, and 95 hour work weeks were not unusual for him.

A cot in Edison’s private Library, where he would sleep for a few hours at time when necessary. He rarely slept through the night, and 95 hour work weeks were not unusual for him.Edison's desk in his private library, which was locked on the day he died in 1931, and not reopened until 1947, by his son Charles.

Edison’s desk in his private library, which was locked on the day he died in 1931, and not reopened until 1947, by his son