Images of the Edison and Henry Ford Winter Homes, Gardens and Lab in Fort Myers, Florida
A vacation trip that my mother and I took in 1997 to visit my aunt and uncle who had their winter home on the west coast in Florida at the time led us to visiting the winter homes of two luminaries in their respective fields who just also happened to be neighbors and friends with one another.
Thomas A. Edison is known to many people as the inventor of the light-bulb. While this is not entirely true, he did make the light-bulb usable due to his inventions.
He lived his entire life cranking out inventions at an amazing pace. Upon his death he had secured over 1,000 U.S. patents for his various inventions...some of them minor and many of them major ones which still impact our lives today.
Edison's neighbor was the industrialist Henry Ford who became one of the world's first billionaires due to his mass marketing efforts of the Model T Ford automobile.
We were to walk the grounds of their gardens and see their homes which were situated along the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers, Florida.
Lush gardens at the Edison & Ford winter homes in Fort Myers, Florida
Bamboo on the Edison winter estate in Florida
Ticket prices include seeing both of these men's gardens and homes. The Edison grounds are the largest of the two comprised of fourteen acres out of the twenty that one gets to walk through and admire.
Thomas Edison was not only interested in gardening for the beauty that it created, but most if not all of the things grown in his extensive collection of trees, shrubs and plants of various types that originated in many parts of the world were grown for experimental purposes. His inventive and curious mind was always searching for new ideas that could be transformed into products that might be of use for practical purposes or even pleasure.
Many things were utilized for the filaments in the early light bulbs with some success. But getting them to remain hot and glowing for a long time was the challenge. Edison's idea to use a carbonized bamboo filament extended a light bulbs life making it one of the important advances in his career. But his creative mind did not stop there.
Even more important than the invention of a long lived light-bulb was to create a power source to keep that light bulb with the bamboo filament illuminated.
His inventions to generate electricity and deliver it to the masses helped transform the 19th century and this quote credited to him says it all: "We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles."
Banyan tree in front of the Edison Museum in Fort Myers, Florida
A sign posted at the banyan tree on the Edison winter estate shows the following:
Given to Edison by Firestone in 1925
Circumference of Aerial Roots: 390 ft.
From a brochure that we picked up when touring the Edison home and gardens it stated that the Banyan tree was 2 inches in diameter when Harvey Firestone brought it from India in 1925 and gave it to Edison to plant in his gardens.
As banyon trees age they send down aerial roots which thicken and become as large as the initial trunk in many cases.
The one at the Edison home in Fort Myers is credited as being the third largest banyan tree in the world and takes up about an acre of land. The largest is in India and second largest in Maui according to what we learned.
It is an amazing site to see in the Edison gardens if only for that fact alone!
Moreton Bay Fig Tree at Edison home in FloridaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Moreton Bay Fig Tree
Obviously with the number of acres on the Edison estate, these Moreton Bay Fig trees found there have room to spread out and grow. And they do take up a lot of space! This is because of their root system which tends to grow much of it above ground serving as a buttress to hold up the tree which can grow up to 200 feet tall.
The curvaceous roots of this tree ( Ficus macrophylla ) originating in Australia are quite beautiful and they grow tall as can be viewed by looking at the people walking by one of the trees in my photo. I used the Moreton Bay Fig tree and its roots as inspiration for one of my lithographs that I created some years ago.
Bougainvilleas cascading over a portion of the Thomas Edison home in Florida.
These woody vined plants originated in South America and are grown world wide in warmer climates or inside as ornamental plants.
By now you get the idea that plants from all regions of the world that can be grown outside in temperate climates can be found growing in the Thomas Edison gardens in Fort Myers, Florida.
We were to see various types of palm trees including Royal palms, King palms, Hat palms and many cycads.
An unusual tree coming from Africa is the Sausage Tree. I purchased a postcard showing it which was printed in Italy and shows no copyright so will post it here for readers of this hub to see. The official name of this tree with the dangling "sausages" which is actually the fruit of the tree is Kigelia Pinnata.
Sausage Tree - Edison Winter Home, Fort Myers, Florida
People who love to garden and see usual as well as more unusual plants will truly enjoy wandering through Edison's gardens and the adjoining Ford grounds.
Edison and Ford garden photos from Fort Myers, FloridaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Edison Winter Estate
Thomas Edison winter home photosClick thumbnail to view full-size
Thomas Edison Winter home
Seminole Lodge was the name of the home that Thomas Edison had built on his property in 1886. He had drawn up the design plans for this home and the guest home next to his primary winter residence, had them built in Maine and then shipped by boats and assembled on site. Thus these were some of the first prefabricated homes in America.
They were both Queen Anne styled wood houses and had large wrap around shaded porches which was perfect for enjoying the mild winter temperatures in Florida.
Visitors to this property can see the original furniture as well as early inventions enjoyed at the Edison house like his electrified chandeliers which illuminated his house long before others in the area had electricity flowing to their homes.
Notice the light-bulb topping the cake in the dining room when you view the photos. It was obviously set for some special occasion on the day of our visit.
Edison lab in Fort Myers, Florida
It is certainly interesting learning more about Thomas Edison and his many inventions.
Thomas Edison who was born in 1847 spent only three months in a formalized school setting and according to accounts just did not fit the norm. He was so inquisitive and restless to learn that his mother who had been a teacher took over his education at home. Obviously a genius, he left home at the early age of 12 and became an entrepreneur.
As an example, at age 14 he was publishing a newspaper out of a train car. By age 16 he was operating a telegraph ticker and went on to invent a better universal stock ticker which earned him $40,000 when he sold the patent. That was a lot of money in those days!
Edison was approximately 90 percent deaf from the disease scarlet fever which he contracted during his childhood. One of his inventions was the phonograph. Edison "felt" the vibrations on his phonograph with his teeth. We could see the bite marks on one early phonograph in the Edison museum. Supposedly the phonograph was one of his favorite inventions.
People who like attending movies can also be grateful to Edison for his creation of movie projectors.
His accomplishments are too many to list, but suffice it to say that with the help of his employees who also worked in his laboratories, he continued to make inventions and secured patents as long as he was alive numbering well over one thousand.
Viewing all of the test tubes, bottles and paraphernalia in the lab at his winter home was interesting to say the least.
Thomas Edison: A Life of Invention
Edison museum in Fort Myers, Florida
There are numerous exhibits in the Thomas Edison museum showcasing many of his inventions.
Numerous original phonographs, movie projectors, light bulbs of interesting shapes and sizes including one giant one that generated 75,000 watts of electricity, a 3 wire generator and more.
One could spend hours in the museum if one were to read about all of the exhibits.
In the Automobile Museum, Edison's Model T Ford given to him by his friend and neighbor Henry Ford is on exhibit along with many other vintage "horseless carriages."
We learned that goldenrod was the best source for rubber out of thousands of plants tested prior to the discovery of synthetic rubber which was used during World War 2.
Early automobile lovers would appreciate visiting this spot. Other things we learned from visiting this site included the following:
- A 1917 truck cost $500 new.
- A 1914 Model T touring car cost $490; had 22.5 HP & could go 35 to 55 MPH
- The deluxe 1929 Model A cost $700 new.
Vintage vehicles at Edison museum in Fort Myers, FloridaClick thumbnail to view full-size
I remember seeing some of those old Model T Fords in Michigan with my parents when I was a child. Getting to see some of them here in Florida where Henry Ford spent winter months was equally fun.
Henry Ford Biography
Henry Ford winter home
In comparison to Edison's home and guest house, Henry Ford's winter home that he purchased in 1916 was more modest in size. It sits on about six acres of land adjacent to Edison's property and also has water access.
Ford named his winter cottage The Mangoes. It was built five years earlier in a Craftsman-style which incorporated natural ingredients and simple but elegant design. It also had a covered veranda built onto the home which would have been well utilized. It is quite a contrast to his large mansion in Dearborn, Michigan which was erected in 1914 and is now property of the University of Michigan.
Ford's assembly line manufacturing of the Model T Ford automobile made vehicles affordable for the average family and changed the mode of transportation from horses and carriages to the more modern vehicles that have continued to be manufactured and improved upon ever since the early days of the 20th century.
A tidbit of information that we learned about him was the fact of his being an avid square-dancer and caller. He even published a small booklet of square dance calls.
Henry Ford's winter home in Fort Myers, Florida
The postcards of the Ford winter home shown below were printed in Italy and have no copyright displayed.
Henry Ford's winter home in Fort Myers, FloridaClick thumbnail to view full-size
National Preservation Awards - Edison & Ford Winter Estates
Edison and Ford Winter Estates
Both of these estates are on the National Register of Historic Sites and offer interactive ways to enjoy them. From student summer camps to those interested in doing internships...from business meetings in that environment to those wishing to have their weddings performed on these gorgeous and lush grounds...that and much more can be enjoyed at the Edison and Ford winter houses and grounds in Fort Myers, Florida.
My mother and I certainly enjoyed our visit there accompanied by my aunt and uncle who were happy to be our tour guides on that bright and sunny day.
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Story of Thomas Alva Edison
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© 2012 Peggy Woods
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