"A University of Light"
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 Charles F. 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 "park" was developed with the acquisition of 44 land parcels between 1911 and 1925 with a few more in the 1930s and ’50s, totaling 71 acres that spread between Noble and Belvoir Roads in East Cleveland and reach into Cleveland Heights to the east for a few blocks, Construction of eleven buildings by 1915 provided facilities for engineering, manufacturing, administration, maintenance, utilities, operations, and lamp laboratories. Eight more facilities were added by 1930, and four more in the 1950s brought Nela’s campus to its present status as a comprehensive lighting development center. Throughout this period, the Nela “camp” was developed on the campus grounds to house recreational, assembly, event, and dining facilities.
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 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 responsible for the development of quality, energy-efficient lighting products that benefited countless individuals and organizations. Another time capsule was ceremonially buried in 2013 at Nela Park. Among its contents was a GE Energy Smart 60-watt replacement LED bulb with a 22-year service life when operated three hours a day.
By the latter half of the 2010s, General Electric Corporation was undergoing reorganization of its business model and priorities to include the divestiture of the lighting business. In 2020, Savant Systems Inc., of Massachusetts, acquired GE Lighting from General Electric, preserving its name and keeping maintaining its century-long lighting operations intact. Two years later, GE Lighting sold Nela Park to Milwaukee-based Phoenix Investors, with plans to consolidate its operations in one building and attract other tenants to the remainder of the Georgian-style campus.