by Michele Guttenberger
On Sat., Sept. 24, the Thomas Edison National Historic Park site offered a free family day of family activities. It was in the tradition of Edison’s own family’s lifestyle with the participation of some outdoor games that were popular with them. After a summer of family programs at the Edison Factory Lab site, it was a nice program change to have the official first days of fall outdoors at Glenmont. This is the home and estate of Thomas and Mina Edison. Like Edison’s factory laboratory it too is part of the National Historical Park Site. Glenmont resides inside the gated community of Llewellyn Park and visitors were instructed to pick up a car pass from the Laboratory Visitor Center first.
Thomas Edison was there to greet family guests to his lawn party in spirit with a life-size cardboard cutout of this famous Llewellyn Park neighbor. Families got to experience a history view of West Orange’s prosperous suburbia during the early 20th Century. This was an emerging era of New Jersey’s train commuters and family suburb living. It had a comforting combination of modern electric conveniences while retaining the traditional barn of riding horses and a place for fresh egg laying hens. The park ranger curators of the site have preserved a time capsule of the way things were when the Edison’s family lived there.
The park rangers had organized programs that made this free family day both an educational and delightful experience. Activities included tours of the 29-room Victorian Mansion and tours of the poured concrete garage which houses a circa 1900 Locomobile, 1922 Model T and the 1936 Brewster belonging to son Charles Edison, Governor of NJ in 1940.
Kids got to enjoy water color painting and obstacle course races on the lawn, Victorian board games, Junior Ranger activities, tree and leaf identification, and birding activities. Adults enjoyed strolling through the 15-acre estate, garage, greenhouse and the gravesite of Thomas and Mina Edison.
It is noteworthy history to mention the 38-year-old widower Thomas Edison got a second chance at being a family man at Glenmont with his second wife Mina and their three younger children. Mina gave birth to all her children there and Edison peacefully passed away in his bed at Glenmont at age 84. This place was an attraction for neighborhood friends, associates and world dignitaries alike who were given guest invitations by Mrs. Edison. Now today’s pubic can reenact the experience of being an invited guest to the Edison home.
For more info on special family fall programs at Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange. Go to www.nps.gov/edis or call 973-736-0550 x11.