written by:
March 10, 2012
Originally published in Light & Energy

Personally wired by Thomas Edison, J. Pierpont Morgan’s home was the first electrified residence in New York. A recent LED retrofit delivers the library into a new age.

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  A collection of buildings, The Morgan Library & Museum began as the private library of financier J. Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913). As early as 1890 Morgan had an assemblage of illuminated, literary, and historical manuscripts, early printed books, and old master drawings and prints.  Courtesy of Graham Haber.

    A collection of buildings, The Morgan Library & Museum began as the private library of financier J. Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913). As early as 1890 Morgan had an assemblage of illuminated, literary, and historical manuscripts, early printed books, and old master drawings and prints.

    Courtesy of Graham Haber.
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  The library was designed by Charles McKim between 1902 and 1906.  Courtesy of The Morgan Library & Museum.

    The library was designed by Charles McKim between 1902 and 1906.

    Courtesy of The Morgan Library & Museum.
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  The exterior of 219 Madison Avenue, the home of J. Pierpont Morgan.  Courtesy of The Morgan Library & Museum.

    The exterior of 219 Madison Avenue, the home of J. Pierpont Morgan.

    Courtesy of The Morgan Library & Museum.
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  In 1924, eleven years after Pierpont Morgan's death, his son, J. P. Morgan, Jr. (1867–1943), made the library available to the public.  Courtesy of Graham Haber.

    In 1924, eleven years after Pierpont Morgan's death, his son, J. P. Morgan, Jr. (1867–1943), made the library available to the public.

    Courtesy of Graham Haber.
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  The marble and mosaic entrance rotunda received a thorough cleaning during the museum's $106 million renovation and expansion.

    The marble and mosaic entrance rotunda received a thorough cleaning during the museum's $106 million renovation and expansion.

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  Inside the study, or the West Room, was used for Morgan's personal business. The velvet-covered furnishings were reupholstered during the renovation.

    Inside the study, or the West Room, was used for Morgan's personal business. The velvet-covered furnishings were reupholstered during the renovation.

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LED lighting technology in the Morgan Library New York

A collection of buildings, The Morgan Library & Museum began as the private library of financier J. Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913). As early as 1890 Morgan had an assemblage of illuminated, literary, and historical manuscripts, early printed books, and old master drawings and prints.

Image courtesy of Graham Haber.

In the 1880s, electricity was a terrifying but exhilarating concept. The idea that one could escape the smell and drudgery associated with gas lamps, particularly in one’s own home, was tantalizing but the risks involved—fiery destruction to person and property, namely—deterred even those with cash and courage to spare. Enter J. Pierpont Morgan, one of the country’s wealthiest citizens and no stranger to calcuated risk. He was in the process of building a monument to his riches in the form of a brownstone on Madison Avenue, and he decided that Thomas Edison, the pioneer of a new incandescent technology, should outfit the home. A trench was dug, a steam-powered generator installed, and two small house fires later, the structure became the first successfully electrified residence in New York— and the country’s most modern home. Over a century later, original library fixtures were replaced with discreet tracks of LED bulbs, ensuring that its future will continue to burn bright.

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