An archeological dig at Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory site has uncovered what an Edison expert believes is the basement of the inventor’s office building and hopes it will yield artifacts from the man who made the world’s first light bulb and phonograph.
Edison historian Jack Stanley, who is leading the dig, said a crevice lined with craggy red bricks is believed to lead into the basement of the now-destroyed 1882 building that housed Edison’s library and stood next to the famed laboratory.
The team plans to unearth the site on Saturday.
A team of diggers from nearby Monmouth College working at the 34-acre laboratory complex site found a hole they thought was only a sinkhole until they identified it as the building site from photographs and a survey done by Henry Ford in 1928.
“This is so important. It’s hallowed ground,” Stanley, director of Thomas Edison Menlo Park Museum, said on Thursday.
“This was the world’s first research laboratory. This is where the world we know today was born.”
Some artifacts of the Edison complex are already housed in the Smithsonian and other museums, “but to find an original piece of it is amazing,” Stanley said.
The office building and Edison’s nearby home burned down in the early 1900s. Devastated by his wife’s death, Edison abandoned the lab in 1884 and it collapsed in 1913.
The dig is part of a project to underline Edison’s historical importance. Plans call for building a new museum and replica of the famous lab, said Edison Mayor George Spadoro.
Little remains to commemorate his work at Menlo Park — only a shack-like museum and a 131-foot concrete tower topped by 13-1/2-foot “light bulb” which rises in the middle of a weedy lawn.
Stanley said the inventor deserves a finer memorial.
“This is where his heart is. This where Edison became Edison as we know him, the ‘Wizard of Menlo Park.”‘
Edison held 1,300 U.S. and foreign patents in his lifetime, including the transmitter and receiver for the automatic telegraph, the kinetoscope or “peep show” machine and an improved stock ticker system. The inventor died in 1931.