One of the most popular Southwest Florida places
is the Edison & Henry Ford Winter Estates
. Edison/Henry Ford Winter Estates is to preserve and interpret the home, botanical gardens, and laboratory of Thomas Edison as well as the home of Henry Ford. Further, the institution should collect, preserve, and exhibit artifacts relating to their lives and work with special emphasis on their experiences in the City of Fort Myers
. This endeavor is undertaken for the education and benefit of the public.
The winter home of Thomas A. Edison, beautifully poised along the Caloosahatchee River, is one of the greatest historic treasures within Lee County. In 1885, Thomas Edison first visited Florida. He purchased property along the Caloosahatchee River and built a vacation home. The vernacular structure, completed in 1886 and dubbed "Seminole lodge" by the Edisons, served as a winter retreat and work place for the prolific inventor until his death in 1931.
The home, designed by Mr. Edison, was built in sections in Fairfield, Maine in 1885. The sections were then transported to Fort Myers by four sailing schooners and erected in 1886.
When you visit "Seminole Lodge," you enter a world unlike any you have ever seen. The furnishings and architecture of these gracious, rambling buildings are reminiscent of a bygone era. The inventive genius of Edison is evident throughout his 14-acre riverfront estate.
In the spacious homes, kept just as the Edisons left them, are countless reminders of the years the Edisons shared in this peaceful and serene tropical paradise. Circling the homes are large overhanging porches, which, combined with French doors on the first floor, provide a cool breeze through the home at all times. The electric chandeliers, "electroliers," were designed by Edison and hand made of brass in his own workshop.
In the early 1900s, Mr. Edison built one of Florida's first swimming pools with cement from his own Edison Portland Cement Company. It still holds water today! Mr. Edison used the water from an artesian well to fill the pool and irrigate the botanical gardens.
On March 6, 1947, Mrs. Edison donated the estate to the City of Fort Myers and in November of that year, public touring of the estate began.
Edison's tropical botanical garden, one of the most complete in America, contains more than a thousand varieties of plants imported from all over the world, including African sausage trees and a Banyan tree, which was a gift from Harvey Firestone in 1925. Originally, this was an experimental garden. Edison was interested in the various products and byproducts of the plants, which he used in many of his scientific investigations. Later Mrs. Edison enhanced the garden with many beautiful plants, including roses, orchids and bromeliads.
Ford, Friend and Neighbor:
The close friendship between Henry Ford and Thomas Edison brought Mr. and Mrs. Ford to Fort Myers in 1915 as guests in the Edison's home. The following year, Mr. Ford purchased the house next door to his good friend; and for 15 years, the Fords came to their home in Fort Myers every winter to spend time with the Edisons. They shared their families, local friends and well-known guests, including Harvey Firestone and John Burroghs, the naturalist. The Ford home, "Mangoes," was purchased by the City of Fort Myers in 1988 and was opened for public tours in 1990.
An artifact museum, dedicated by Charles Edison, son of the inventor, was built to preserve and house memorabilia related to Thomas Edison's life. One of the displays in the museum is Edison's unique Model T Ford, a prototype model presented to Edison by his friend, Henry Ford. Also on display is a collection of over 200 Edison phonographs.
The chemical laboratory is one of the most absorbing features of the Edison Estate. Here, workers helped Edison in his research on goldenrod as a source of natural rubber. Throughout the laboratory, where Edison conducted his last major experiments, all of his things are just as they were in his lifetime, including his "cat-nap" cot. Because of his deafness, Edison's sleep was undisturbed and relaxed him so much that 15 minute sleep to him was as good as is several hours to anyone else.
By Beverly Martinez-Collins – PlacesAroundFlorida.com
History and Timeline
Born 1847 in Milan, Ohio.
Parents: Samuel and Nancy Edison.
Died 1931 in West Orange, New Jersey, at the age of 84.
Married Mary Stillwell on December 25, 1871.
They had 3 children: Marion, Thomas, and William
Mary Stillwell Edison died in 1884
Married Mina Miller on February 24, 1886.
They had 3 children: Madeleine, Charles, and Theodore
Mina Miller Edison died in 1947
Only Madeleine Edison (Sloan) had children.
Thomas Edison Sloan
John Edison Sloan
Peter Edison Sloan
Michael Edison Sloan
Edison amassed 1,093 patents – the largest number ever awarded to one person.
Arrived in Fort Myers in 1885, purchased approximately 14 acres with friend Ezra Gilliland.
Edison and Gillil and had houses built in 1886.
Edison purchased former Gilliand house in 1906 and transformed it into a guesthouse.
Planted botanical specimens from all over the world to aid in his experiments.
Electric laboratory moved to Greenfield village, Michigan in 1928.
Edison built existing laboratory in 1928 to find a native source of rubber.
Discovered that goldenrod produced the best product.
Assembled Friendship Walk 1930-31 featuring friends who visited in Fort Myers.
Born 1863 outside of Detroit, Michigan.
Parents: William and Mary (Litogot) Ford.
Died 1947 in Dearborn, Michigan at the age of 84.
Married Clara Bryant on April 11, 1888.
They had one child: Edsel Bryant Ford
Clara Bryant Ford died in 1950
Edsel Ford married Eleanor Clay in 1916.
They had four children -
Henry Ford worked for the Edison Illuminating Company in 1893.
Met Thomas Edison in New York in 1896.
Formed the Henry Ford Company on November 30, 1901.
Purchased “The Mangoes” property next to the Edison estate in 1916 for $20,000.
Each winter the Ford’s would come and spend a short period of time at their residence next to the Edison’s and formed a strong friendship.
Developed the assembly line method of production for the automobile industry.
Started the “Quadricycle” eventually went from Model A through Model T and back to the “A”.
Became one of the country’s first billionaires.
Cultivated friendships with Harvey Firestone, John Burroughs, and Charles Lindbergh.
Sold “The Mangoes” property to the Henry Bigger family in 1945 for $20,000.