Friday, December 12, 2008

Cleveland's Nela Park

Mention Nela Park to anyone in the Cleveland area, and the thought of Christmas lights immediately leaps to mind. That’s because for years, Nela Park has put up some beautiful lighting displays for Christmas. It is also nationally known for its contribution to the creation of lighting for National Christmas Tree in Washington DC. It is, after all, the General Electric Lighting and Electrical Institute. NELA stands for one of the facility’s original names - National Electric Lamp Association - before GE acquired it in 1911.

The institute was first organized by entrepreneurs Franklin Terry and Burton Tremaine, originally called the National Electric Lamp Company. General Electric invested in Nela, despite the fact that it was a competitor, to further the goal of standardizing the screw base that was invented by GE.

It is frequently referred to as the first industrial park in the world. Its campus resembles a university setting, with the buildings modeled in the Georgian Revival architectural style. All but four of the 20 buildings were built before 1921, and these were all designed by the New York architectural firm of Wallis and Goodwillie. Nela Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History provides some details on its origin:

Nela Park, at Noble and Terrace roads in East Cleveland, is one of the earliest (if not the first) planned industrial research parks in the nation. It was conceived in 1910 by Franklin Terry and Burton Tremaine, officers of the Natl. Electric Lamp Co., which soon became the lamp division of General Electric Co... .The site was selected in 1910, a small plateau 234' above Lake Erie, with some dense woods and a picturesque ravine. The building program began in 1911 and was entrusted to one architect in order to achieve a consistent scheme…The complex was very advanced in its handling of mechanical systems, with underground tunnels for all utilities. The main conception of the campuslike park is a perfect representation of the early 20th-century academic ideal. The office and laboratory complex includes 20 major buildings and several smaller structures located in a landscaped park of approximately 90 acres.

Nela Park was also the first facility of its type in the world that devoted itself solely to the teaching of lighting, a purpose it still serves today. The Lighting & Electrical Institute continues to receives thousands of customers and lighting professionals each year for conferences and training programs.

There is quite a bit of information available on Nela Park, and here are some of the more interesting links for further reading:

GE’s History of Nela Park

GE’s Nela Park: Modern Product Showroom in 18th-Century Garb

A Brief Early History - Terry Management Style and Incandescent Lamp Advances

Photo tour

Nela Park fun facts

Check out my blog home page for the latest Cleveland information, here.


Anonymous said...

just saw this blog today as i was looking up some clevelnad info
live here for 9 months and didnt know- now i do:)
you wrote you were unable to climb key tower? is that still true- they do not let visitors go up?
about the suspension bridge- the movie shows it is not passable- do you know if it is still like that

Anonymous said...

Hi, like your blog... it seems you have to go outside the PD to find the reasons to make this place worth fighting for. I have a couple questions on how you posted ads on your blog. Maybe you can help. Email me at


All Things Cleveland said...

Gil, to my knowledge the suspension bridge has no deck so it is not possible to cross.

As far as the Key Tower, I don't know if they offer tours of the top floors but I suspect that since I haven't been able to find anything on the matter I would say that it is not open to the public. The only time I have been in the higher floor of Key Tower was when I was there on business years ago.