As part of a summer series, T+L is highlighting amazing lesser-known attractions found in the United States. Next up: a secret historic gem in the heart of Louisville.
On an unassuming street in downtown Louisville, sandwiched between parking lots and warehouses, sits a tiny brick duplex that remains standing for one reason only: Thomas Edison used to live there.
The New Jersey-born inventor moved the River City in 1866 at the age of 19 to take job as a telegraph operator for Western Union. His job, to distribute Associated Press stories to newspapers around the country, allowed him work overnight, which afforded him plenty of downtime for experimentation. In the end, it was Edison’s tinkering that ended his time in Louisville. After spilling acid during a late night battery experiment, he was fired.
More than a century later, in 1972, the shotgun home in Louisville’s Butchertown neighborhood that Edison once called home was christened the Thomas Edison House and filled with artifacts from the prolific inventor’s 84-year life. When Edison died in 1933, he had more than 1000 patents, an American record that stood until July of 2015.
Though it’s only three rooms, this museum is chock full of Edison's inventions, including phonographs, sewing machines and dozens of light bulbs. Although Edison’s designs are now obsolete, it’s not difficult to see how he influenced modern technology. An example: the kinetoscope, a peephole viewing device that help usher in the age of the motion picture.
Many of the artifacts are old, fragile and, therefore, not to be touched. However, there a few opportunities for interactivity at Thomas Edison House, including a more than 100-year-old phonograph that still plays and telegraph machines that still tap out messages in morse code.
One of Louisville’s lesser-known historical attractions, the Thomas Edison House is rarely crowded, so there’s typically a friendly docent around to give a tour. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the museum is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for students and free for children five and under.