Nela Park


The National Electric Lamp Association (NELA) formed in 1901 under Franklin Terry and Burton Tremaine. Much of NELA’s light-bulb innovation stemmed from, and competed with, both Brush’s arc light technology, and Thomas Edison’s incandescent lamp technology. GE became a major stockholder in NELA as soon as 1902, and provided the former facilities of the Brush Electric Co. as a new home for NELA. GE’s stake in the company become so substantial, 75%, federal courts ordered GE to dissolve the company in 1911. GE quickly absorbed NELA and successively gained ownership of NELA’s new industrial complex in the suburbs, Nela Park.

The location for Nela Park was known as Panorama Heights, a place where German immigrants held vineyards prior to the parks development. Nela Park was designed by New York landscape architect Frank E. Wallis in a Georgian style. The finished product was the first ever industrial park, costing roughly $400,000 in 1913. The actual move from the old Brush Electric Co. factory on East 45th Street to Nela Park on Noble Road took nineteen hours to complete on April 18, 1913.

The business park also contained several features to appease employees including a decent cafeteria, general library, a dispensary that provided dental, nursing, and medical care, a barber shop, transportation office, ample garage parking, and a local bank branch. Nela Park also provided a range of recreational facilities such as tennis courts, baseball fields, an in-ground swimming pool, bowling alleys, and even an auditorium. Due to its reputation as a leading innovator in electrical lighting research and development, and university campus environment, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Nela Park developed a reputation as a “University of Light.”

Recently, a centenarian time capsule was unearthed. Originally sealed and buried on March 25, 1912 in front of a crowd of high-ranking employees, the capsule was concealed within a cornerstone of Marketing Building #307 for 100 years to the day before its exhumation in 2012. The capsule contained a newspaper, photos, and most notably several incandescent light bulbs, which in 1912 were a state of the art development. To the delight of the hundreds of current and former employees who witnessed the opening of the time capsule, one of the bulbs was placed on display and successfully produced light despite being stowed away for an entire century. The current President and CEO of GE Lighting took the opportunity to point out how appropriate it was that such a lamp still functioned, citing that GE’s Nela Park was and is responsible for the development of quality, energy-efficient lighting products that benefit countless individuals and organizations. Another time capsule is scheduled for ceremonial burial in April of 2013 at GE’s Nela Park, and it reportedly will contain “a GE Energy Smart 60-watt LED bulb that lasts over 22 years when operated 3 hours a day” among other things.

Audio Show

Building Nela Park

Richard Austin recounts the importance of Nela Park and the electric lamp to the Austin Company's success

"I'm a GE Baby"

Barbara Wherley, whose father was an accountant for the GE Lighting Division, relates her memories of spending summer days playing and swimming in Nela Park.

Christmas Lights

Barbara Wherley remembers when one could drive through the grounds of Nela Park and see dazzling holiday light displays before security concerns limited the shows to the Noble Road perimeter of the facility.

Photos Show

Construction Begins on Nela Park, 1913

Horse-drawn wagons and a steam shovel assist in work on what would soon become one of East Cleveland's leading employers.

Cornerstone Ceremony, 1913

Dignitaries gather for the dedication of Nela Park.

Turning the Corner

Nela Park may be seen in the distance from the corner of Euclid Avenue and Noble Road in East Cleveland.

Nela Park, 1963

Nela Park's well-planned campus in East Cleveland is often cited as the world's first office park.

GE Lighting Institute, 1975

The General Electric Lighting & Electrical Institute was founded in 1933 to further education and training in those fields.

Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.

Fluorescent Lamps, 1940

Six years after its first successful test of fluorescent lighting, Nela Park was beginning to produce the lamps in growing quantities, a trend that would accelerate during World War II. In this photo, women test newly manufactured bulbs.

Many-eyed Vehicle, 1951

Two men inspect this novel automotive use of GE headlamps.

Laboratory at GE Lighting, 1963

This interior shot shows technicians testing lighting products.

GE Lighting Institute, 1963

This interior view overlooks the pool at Nela Park.

75,000-Watt Light Bulb, 1966

Produced in 1954 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Edison lamp, GE's 75,000-watt bulb was the world's largest. Equivalent to the light produced by 2,874 60-watt bulbs, this innovation was the antithesis of today's trend toward energy-saving bulbs. Today the bulb is on display at Edison's winter home and laboratory in Fort Myers, Florida.

Holiday Light Display, 1928

Nela Park has been known for its holiday light displays for many years.

Cite this Page

Matt Sisson, “Nela Park,” Cleveland Historical, accessed March 5, 2015, http:/​/​clevelandhistorical.​org/​items/​show/​78.​
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