First all-electric hotel in the world being restored

Vintage postcard featuring The Hotel Edison, Sunbury PAAccording to the blog for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, The Hotel Edison is being restored to its 1930s glory by two real estate investors.

Named for the man who, in 1883, made it the first commercial structure illuminated by electricity,The Hotel Edison was converted over time to support a mix of uses and had been in a state of decline for years. Though they lacked any experience with historic preservation, Meghan Beck and her business partner, Bradley Niemiec, both 36, bought it anyway.Three years and countless hours of restoration work later, the hotel, located in downtown Sunbury, Pennsylvania, is thriving.Using photographs taken of the hotel in the 1930s as a guide, Beck and Niemiec started restoration work with the dining room — applying new wallpaper, installing picture and chair rails at the appropriate heights, reupholstering furniture from the 1930s, restoring the molding, and even tearing up the carpet and refurbishing the original wood floor.Next came the upstairs hallways where ceilings regained their original 12-foot height and fluorescent lighting was replaced with more historically accurate fixtures.

I so love to hear about this sort of preservation-restoration going on! The Hotel Edison will have apartments on the upper floors, regular hotel rooms, as well as a restaurant, bar, and banquet rooms (it looks like the bar and restaurant are already open and doing very well, based on the hotel’s Facebook page). The 1917 hand-operated elevator will be restored as well as the building’s facade.

The Edison, originally known as the City Hotel, was built in 1871 and rapidly established itself as one of the finest places to stay or dine in the Susquehanna Valley.


Ten years after the hotel’s 1872 opening, Thomas Edison arrived in Sunbury to build the world’s first three-wire incandescent electric lighting plant (the two-wire system had proven rather expensive). The inventor chose Sunbury due to the high cost of gas in the town, as gas was used for illumination. Moreover, coal was available in great quantities nearby, and, of course, coal was a very inexpensive source of fuel for electricity. The coal plant to fuel the electricity was built in just three weeks!


On Independence Day, 1883, Mr. Edison’s electricity brought to life carbon-filament incandescent light bulbs throughout the hotel, making it the first commercial building in the world to be illuminated by electricity! Sunbury residents celebrated with cheers and a brass band (ah, the good old brass band days). The hotel was renamed for Mr. Edison in 1922, when the father of electric light returned to Sunbury for the town’s sesquicentennial. Edison was honoured by a plaque on the hotel now bearing his name.


More recently, Monkee Davey Jones apparently challenged an entire late-night concert audience to fisticuffs outside The Hotel Edison in 2009.


The Edison is thus added to my list of places I’d love to shoot and visit. I’m sure the new investors will have the hotel restored to its past beauty someday, to the delight of guests and residents. It sounds like a great setting for a mystery novel, too…


Are any of you in the area? I’d love the scoop on the restaurant, and of course that restored dining room! If you’re into ghost-hunting, the Hotel Edison hosts an “Extreme Ghost Hunt” (yes, the Edison is rumoured to be haunted, though not by the genius of Menlo Park) in just a couple of weeks. Might be worth checking out…I’d just be there for the Hotel, though. 😉


Read more about The Hotel Edison! (The links have photographs of the handsome old building, too)
The Edison Hotel: A Bright and Colorful History

National Trust For Historic Preservation: The World’s First All-Electric Commercial Building Restored in Sunbury, Pennsylvania

Explore First Electric Light Historical Marker



5 thoughts on “First all-electric hotel in the world being restored

  1. While it’s not incredibly close to Retro Roadmap HQ it’s also not too far away – about as far as NYC from where we are. So I’ve put a pin on the map and will definitely let you know if/when we’re out thataway! I also know some folks in the general area – perhaps I can convince them to either meet us there or do some scouting beforehand! Will keep you posted, and thanks for the heads up!

  2. Hi Jen, I just love historic hotels, thanks for posting about the Edison. We actually had our Wedding in the French Room at the Aldolphus Hotel in Dallas. It was splendid. If you’re ever in Dallas, you might check it out, I know you’d love it.

    Interesting to hear the Edison was the first commercial structure illuminated by electricity. The Del Coronado in San Deigo, CA also makes that claim. We love the island and stay at ‘The 1906 Lodge’. Very cute, entirely renovated, I highly recommend it. But we’ve dined at The Del Coronado many times and know the history. Here’s their story:

    • Oh, thank you for the recommendation! I love Texas, so will certainly keep the Aldolphus in mind for at least a visit. I’ll ahve to look at the Del Coronado, too. So far as electric…I don’t know. The articles I read for this post all pointed to the Edison, but who knows? PR does a world of good, sometimes.

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