Sunday, June 10, 2012

Glenmont: “The best two days of my life.”

Glenmont: “The best two days of my life.”
Written by NJ Historian

Glenmont in Llewellyn Park, New Jersey, once home to one of the world’s greatest inventors, was admired by Henry Ford, who after a stay with the Edison family said, “It was the best two days of my life.” For visitors today, it is easy to see why Henry Ford would say that about the spacious home and grounds. In 1886, Thomas Edison married Mina Miller, the 20-year-old daughter of a wealthy Midwestern manufacturer. According to family lore, Edison gave his fiancé the choice of a home in New York City or a home in the country. Mina had heard about Glenmont, which recently came on the market and was only a short distance from the site where Edison was planning on building a laboratory complex in West Orange.

Glenmont in Llwellyn Park, NJ
Glenmont was designed by the architect Henry Hudson Holly, who also designed Edison’s laboratory complex. Edison purchased the Glenmont estate, totaling 13.5 acres including the house, barn, greenhouse, and furnishings in January of 1886 for $125,000, half its estimated value. The home was originally built in 1880 for Henry C. Pedder, who was an accountant for Arnold Constable, a now-defunct department store. Pedder had been convicted of embezzling from the store. The home is located in Llewellyn Park, which was founded in 1857 by Llewellyn Solomon Haskell, a New York businessman. Llewellyn Park is thought to be the country's first planned residential community, and the site of the first large-scale naturalization of crocus, narcissus, and jonquils. The landscaping is in the nineteenth century romantic style of New York's Central Park, and includes winding paths, and rare ornamental trees, shrubs, and flowers.

A Queen Anne style mansion with twenty-nine rooms, the home exemplifies the style introduced by Holly, which includes asymmetrical façade, high-pitched gables, rooftop balcony (widow’s walk), wrap-around porch, and unified color. Interior elements include stained-glass windows, chandeliers, wainscoting, and hand-painted ceilings.

Since Thomas Edison was often busy in his laboratory, Mina was in control of the home and dubbed herself as a “home executive” and took the duties very seriously. She managed money, oversaw the servants, and raised the couple’s three children, Madeleine, Charles, and Theodore and Edison’s three children from his first marriage, Marion, Thomas Jr., and William. During the Edison's ownership of the home, a garage and greenhouse building was added. These buildings were constructed of Edison's Portland Cement.

Edison's six car garage at Glenmont.

Edison's greenhouse at Glenmont.
Guests at Glenmont included Orville Wright, Helen Keller, the King of Siam and Edison’s friend Henry Ford.

After Edison died in 1931, Mina married again and lived at Glenmont until her death in 1947. Edison and Mina were originally buried in Rosedale Cemetery in Orange, New Jersey.  In 1963, the remains of both were exhumed from Rosedale Cemetery and reinterred at Edison's Glenmont estate. 

Thomas and Mina Edison's graves at Glenmont.
Prior to Mina’s passing, she sold the home to the Edison Corporation the stipulations that she be allowed to remain in the home and that after her death the property become a museum. Edison's home was designated as the Edison Home National Historic Site on December 6, 1955. The laboratory was designated as Edison Laboratory National Monument on July 14, 1956. On September 5, 1962, the 21-acre site containing the home and the laboratory were designated the Edison National Historic Site and overseen by the National Park Service. On March 30, 2009 it was renamed Thomas Edison National Historical Park. 

The above photographs show the reception room in Glenmont as photographed by the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) in 1961. The home today maintains the same furnishings and decoration.

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Keep up the good work of telling us about our local history !

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