Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thomas Edison & Henry Ford's Winter Estates

Thomas Edison's "Seminole Lodge"

While on my "mini break" (my tiny 3-day vacation) in Florida, I had planned to visit the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford winter estates in Fort Myers. The two homes sit on a sprawling 17 acre plot of land right on the water in the Historic District of Fort Myers, Florida. When Thomas Edison first saw the site in the 1880s (the land then was untouched and most likely resembled a jungle), he bought it on the spot. With an office primarily based in New Jersey, Edison saw this as an opportunity to bring his work to Florida in the winter season for a "working vacation." He called the home the "Seminole Lodge"

Thomas Edison's home and ajoining guest house

wrap-around porch, beyond is the breezeway to the guest house
(the ceilings were painted a mint green, which I haven't seen before... and I loved the railings!)

Edison built a laboratory, an extensive botanical garden (with over 1,000 varities of plants!) for his experiments and inventions in rubber, two homes (one main house and an identical guest house), and one of the country's first in-ground swimming pools.

view to the pier that extends into the Caloosahatchee River...
people used to pull their boats right up to the shore to catch a glimpse of the in-ground swimming pool!

The estate is so peaceful, and even with all it had to offer, Edison only spent one month of the year in Fort Myers. However, he loved it so much that he convinced his good buddy, Henry Ford to buy the home next door. The two hosted many parties within the months of January and February where Ford would bring twelve to thirteen cars... therefore, a large garage was constructed and still sits there to this day.

friends, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford

We were only allowed to peak into the rooms (rather than walk throughout), but I was able to snap some good pictures of the immaculately currated home...

main living room and parlor off the wrap-around porch

beautiful built-ins to keep Edison's books and collectibles

Edison parlor with Mina Edison's piano

water view from the living room

Edison dining room

Edison kitchen and butler's pantry

Thomas and Mina Edison's bedroom

porch walkway just outside the master bedroom

inside Edison's laboratory, where he spent most of his time
(there is a bed inside so he never had to leave).

Thomas Edison in his laboratory

Next door was Henry Ford's craftsman bungalow. Restored to it's original character after a multi-million dollar renovation in 2007, the home is a bit smaller than the Edison estate, but has a great deal of charm. I was only able to snap a couple of photos here...

Henry Ford's winter estate, "The Mangoes"

Ford's living room at his winter estate

Thomas Edison passed away in 1931, and Mina was given ownership of the estate. In 1947, she sold the property to the City of Fort Myers for one dollar. She wanted to pay tribute to her loving husband while allowing the public to enjoy the historical property.

Mina and Thomas Edison at their winter retreat in Fort Myers, Florida

In 1950, the Thomas Edison Winter Estate opened it's doors to the public, giving vistors historical tours of the botanical gardens, laboratories, and both homes. It wasn't until 1988 that the adjacent Henry Ford estate was purchased, and in 1990, the Ford estate was included with the Edison historical tours. In 2003, the City of Fort Myers handed the property to a non-profit organization, The Thomas Edison & Henry Ford Winter Estates, Inc. -- an organization committed to preserving the site for future growth and development. It was this organization that successfully completed the over $10 million renovation in 2007.

On a sidenote, our docent, Justin, was terrific. If you plan on being in the Fort Myers area any time soon, I highly recommend visiting the winter estates!

*Did you know that Thomas Edison patented 1064 inventions?!?! For more facts about this American inventor visit THIS website!


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