Photos & Text by: Josť Delfino, April 10th, 2009

 

Fort Myers offers travelers a very interesting visit to a "frozen in time" experience.

 

On the Mount Olympus of all-American inventors, Edison and Ford stand as the "Captains of Industry" and share a paramount place in history. They were good friends, and Ford, who was 15 years younger than Edison, felt a profound admiration for his inventive mind.

 

In 1885 Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) first visited Fort Myers. In 1886 he built his winter home "Seminole Lodge", and he took his bride Mina Miller Edison (1865-1947) to Fort Myers to honeymoon and vacation. In 1916 industrialist Henry Ford (1863-1947) purchased the estate next door, "The Mangoes", in order to spend time with his friend and mentor. Ford visited his estate in Fort Myers mostly once a year, to celebrate Edison's birthday.

 

The complex is very well maintained and receives almost a quarter of a million visitors every year, both houses are located on a beautiful waterfront land, surrounded by a wide variety of fruit trees and other botanical species. There is a very interesting on-site museum where visitors can enjoy a multitude of inventive artifacts, photography, very interesting documents, and a wonderful laboratory with all kinds of test tubes, machinery, and artifacts from that period.

 

The property had originally 14 acres along the Caloosahatchet River, located one mile south of the City of Fort Myers. The land was covered with wild vegetation which included green, giant bamboo. Edison was experimenting with this natural fiber, looking for a filament for the incandescent bulb. He bought the property from cattleman Samuel Summerlin for $2,750.

 

Edison's home looks fantastically frozen in time. In 1947, Mina Edison deeded the property to the City of Fort Myers for $1. She did not take anything with her, just walked away.

 

The house was visited by very famous people: Industrialist Harvey Firestone stayed for days, Charles Lindbergh came for dinner, and the likes of President Hayes among many others.

 

Henry Ford worked as a mechanic at the Detroit Edison Plant. He met Edison in 1896 at a conference of the Edison Illuminating Companies. In 1910 they were reacquainted when Ford requested an autographed photo of Edison for his new office. Along with the photo, Edison invited the Ford family to his home in New Jersey. In 1914 Edison invited Henry Ford, wife Clara, and son Edsel to his winter estate in Fort Myers. In 1916 Henry Ford bought the adjacent property from Edison's neighbor Roger Smith.


FORD ESTATE

 

Ford's home is unfurnished and it looks very comfortable and in excellent conditions. The natural color of the hardwood floor gives the whole space a special touch. The gardens were already well developed when Ford purchased the property and it had 100 grapefruit and 50 orange trees.

 

 

 

During the First World War and after it, the demand for rubber was very high. Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone partnered in 1927 and founded the Edison Botanic Research Corporation. They invested $70,000 and as part of the project they built a laboratory on the property. There is a fascinating guided tour every hour.

In addition to both houses and the botanical laboratory, there are many interesting exhibits at the complex, such as Edison's water treatment plant and swimming pool, Mina's Moonlight garden, designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman. She was one of the first female landscape architects in the United States. Also worthy of note is Edison's guest house and caretaker quarters, several antique vehicles and most of all, the museum itself, which exhibits hundreds of fantastic pieces, inventions, diagrams, patents, pictures, and all kind interesting memorabilia. It's open every day except Christmas and Thanksgiving day. Tickets are $12.00 and $20.00 for a full tour. It has audio devices for complete information on many subjects along the tour. It's a great experience!. Go to www.efwefla.org for more information.

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