While hydroelectricity may seem like the green wave of the future, using water for power has been happening for centuries. The Hearthstone Historic House was the first lit by Edison's hydroelectric station. It was created in 1882, and along with the Appleton Paper Company and the Kimberly-Clark Paper Mill, was run solely through the use of water power. There was one other location where this was the case, in New York City. The light switches and electroliers are still being used in the home. Some believe this is the only remaining example of the original structure used at the dawn of the electrical age.
The home itself was designed by William Walters, a well known architect in the Fox Valley. He designed several buildings throughout the Fox Cities, and in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The Rogers family occupied the house for over a decade. The house was sold several times and in the 1930's became a restaurant called The Hearthstone. In the mid-1980's, the City of Appleton contemplated destroying the building, but a group of citizens worked to raise the funds to buy the property. The group created the Friends of the Hearthstone, Inc. They later opened the museum in effort to share the history of Edison's accomplishments.
Today, the house and museum feature an adventure center that teaches kids about the development and usage of electricity. Families will love the experience to understand how something they use on the daily basis works. You will have the opportunity to use an Edison light switch, or attempt to generate the electricity to run an electric trolley model. This is a great place for exploration and teaches kids about science, without boring them with text books and typical science experiments.
The Hearthstone features a gift shop where you can find unique items for just about everyone in your life. There are plenty of items for those who are interested in electricity, but there are also plenty of items for those who just use electricity without thinking about it. There are Victorian style lamps, light bulbs, and handmade jewelry. Kids will love the games, science kits, and desk items that reflect the development of electricity. Also featured are postcards, mugs, shirts, and pens.
The town of Appleton features a variety of attractions, shops, and restaurants. There are elegant bed and breakfasts where you can relax and unwind, feeling as if you have traveled back in time to a simpler locale. Nearby are also casual dining restaurants, lounges and bars, and convention space at some of the local hotels. The Kimberly-Clark company still operates in the town and provides employment for many of the area residents. Appleton is a great town for a weekend getaway, or a great place to host an event if you are based in the Milwaukee or Madison metropolitan area.
Whether you are vacationing in Wisconsin and you want to return home with unique souvenirs, or this is your hometown and you are looking for a fun way to spend an afternoon, head to this science-filled historic destination.