Did you know that Thomas Edison and Henry Ford spent their winters in Fort Myers, FL? I didn’t before my parents moved there a year ago, and since then, I’ve taken a tour of the Edison & Ford Winter Estates three times already! It’s fascinating to see the historical houses and labs, and the gardens are so beautiful 🙂
I didn’t realize Fort Myers had such an interesting history, but I’ve loved visiting the Burroughs Home and Edison and Ford’s estate. For a little background, Thomas Edison built his winter estate (Seminole Lodge) and lab in 1885, and Henry Ford bought the home next door (The Mangoes) in 1914. They would move down to Fort Myers in the winter with their families, and their houses and gardens look the same from when they lived there- down to the wicker furniture and pool! Edison brought over a thousand new plants to the area for his experiments (like rubber trees), and you can actually buy some of the plants and flowers for your own gardens.
You can walk around the grounds with a handheld audio tour that has information about different spots, or you can sign up for tours with a historian (those are a little more expensive).
They turned the groundskeeper’s cottage into an art gallery!
Edison and Ford would bring their families down to Florida with them, and Edison’s wife Mina did a lot of work with decorating and landscaping. Back in the day, “moonlight gardens” were all the rage, so Mina designed one for their home. They’re made with white flowers and Chinese lanterns so you can enjoy sitting in a garden at night.
The pool is one of the neatest things at the estate! It was surprisingly shallow, so I’m not sure how they were able to jump off that high dive into the pool.
The estate sits along the Caloosahatchee River. Since Fort Myers wasn’t a very populated area in the 1800s, the river was used for transporting supplies. But it would get so shallow near the shore at low tide that they built a long pier (where those posts are today) so the boats didn’t have to come near the shore and risk getting stuck.
You aren’t able to walk inside the house, but the entire house is surrounded by windows and doors to help with the airflow so you can easily see in. In each room, you can see a different looking light fixture called an electrolier, which was designed by Edison.
This is the same wicker furniture that Edison used!
Right next to Edison’s house is Ford’s. They have a collection of some of his original cars and trucks, and it’s amazing to see how different they look today! Edison and Ford would go camping with their friends, and they would use Ford’s trucks to drive and carry their supplies through swampland and dirt paths. The trucks don’t look that sturdy, but apparently they were!
Like I said, I’ve been to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates three times now, and I’ve visited both before and after Hurricane Irma. These photos are of the same giant fig tree, and it’s amazing that it survived the hurricane, but you can see a huge difference in the branches from the first two pictures compared to the second two.
There are beautiful flowers and plants and plants all over the estate! Every time I go back, there’s something else in bloom- even in January! It’s a really great place just to leisurely stroll around on a nice day.
There’s a funny story behind this statue! A real estate developer named James Newton was building a neighborhood across the street from the Edison estate. He commissioned this statue to be made at the front of the entrance and had it covered up when it was first installed, but Mina Edison peeked under the covering. She was appalled that the statue didn’t have clothing and asked James Newton to put some clothes on the statue since Mina would have to look at it every day, and he complied and actually became best friends with the Edisons! He wrote a book about his group of famous friends called Uncommon Friends: Life with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel & Charles Lindberg, and now the Uncommon Friends Foundation manages the Burroughs Home!
There’s a museum with even more information about Edison and Ford, and you can see Edison’s lab and darkroom! (Can you guess which one I was most excited about? 😉 ) During one of my visits, there was a presentation about Ford’s impact on WWII, which was really interesting! I had no idea he made planes and built a factory just to help out with war supplies.
I learn a TON of history every time I visit the Edison & Ford Winter Estates! It’s a great place to see a part of history you normally wouldn’t or to just walk around and admire the flowers and view from the river 🙂