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Sarah Jordan Boarding House

Sarah Jordan Boarding House Sarah Jordan converted this 1870 duplex into a boarding house in 1878 so that several of Thomas Edison’s unmarried employee's would have housing near the Menlo Park Laboratory Complex. The house was one of the first to be lighted by Edison’s newly invented incandescent lamp during the public lighting demonstration of December 1879. But since the light bulbs, which were mounted on the wall, were experimental, Sarah Jordan and her boarders relied on kerosene lamps as well.

Edison’s employees relaxed in the Sitting Room when they were not busy at the nearby laboratory. A game of cards, reading, story swapping or even a heated argument filled their leisure times. Menlo Park visitors looking for a good meal took over the same space, crowding the boarders into the smaller dining room to the rear of the house.

It took many hands to keep this house running: kneading bread, boiling the dirty clothes, emptying the slops, sweeping the floors, clearing the tables and much more, before the chores for the day were finished.

Boarders seldom crossed the threshold or even had a look into Sarah Jordan’s side of the house. Sarah Jordan’s sitting room was a private place, filled with inexpensive, fancy goods and furniture even then somewhat out-of-date.

Privacy was difficult to find in a house shared with strangers. Keepsakes competed for space with necessities in Sarah’s Bedroom, the only room Sarah Jordan, who had lost her husband in 1877, and her 10 year old daughter, Ida, could really call their own.

Kate Williams, the 42-year old servant, had a private room in the back of the house. The room was furnished in inexpensive cast-off objects.

Up to sixteen boarders occupied the six upstairs bedrooms of the house. These room were very spacious in comparison to the rooms occupied by Sarah and her daughter. Most of the rooms were occupied by at least 2 boarders, which didn’t offer the boarders much privacy.
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