The Edison Memorial Tower was completed in 1937 on the site of Thomas Alva Edison’s “Invention Factory” (1876-1882) in Menlo Park (now Edison Township), NJ. Designed by architects Gabriel Francois Massena and Alfred F. duPont of Wilmington, DE, the Tower is one of only two Art Deco monuments in New Jersey and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was constructed using precast architectural concrete panels with exposed aggregate, the work of John J. Earley, a concrete pioneer. Earley utilized thirteen different aggregate color mixes to give the Tower a graduated “dark to light” appearance that focused attention on the light bulb at the top and added to its monumentality.
The precast concrete surface was extremely deteriorated. Principals and staff of Mills + Schnoering Architects investigated the Tower’s condition and developed a set of documents for its restoration. Together with conservators, engineers, and specialty consultants, the team performed a survey utilizing rope access from the top of the bulb, a 125-ft working height boom lift, and a scaffold constructed around the base of the Tower. Laboratory analysis of samples collected during the survey facilitated assessment. Repairs ranging from general cleaning and patching of spalls to full replacement of portions of the precast panels were then carried out. Restoration of the Tower also included replacement of portions of the Tower and Terrace drainage, replacement of the Tower’s lighting with LED sources, and replacement of the audio system. Both the lightbulb and the loudspeaker system were tributes to Edison’s inventions.