Enjoy a bit of History at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers
Enjoy a bit of History at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers.
When I go to a vacation destination I enjoy learning about the history of the area. On my recent trip to Sanibel Island and Fort Myers, I decided to take a tour of the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. It was a great experience to learn about two of the most influential inventors and businessmen in American history.
This is a worthwhile Florida attraction to visit if you are in the area. Tourists can see their homes, botanical gardens, museums and laboratories. We spent about 4 hours there, but how much time you spend there will depend on how much you want to take in.
I really did not know that much about the relationship of these two men. I learned that Henry Ford had worked for Thomas Edison when he was a young man and Edison befriended him and became his mentor. Thomas Edison encouraged him to pursue his aspirations of developing and mass producing his ideas for automobiles. The stayed friends throughout the years and Thomas Edison persuaded him to eventually buy the home next to his Edison’s winter estate, which he built in Fort Myers it in 1886. He began using it that year with his new bride Mina.
The Banyan Trees
When you first arrive in the parking lot, you will see some huge banyan trees. They are an amazing sight to see, with the branches of the tree grow horizontally and re-rooting they get very large. They have four banyan trees that were given to them by Harvey Firestone, the largest tree is one acre in diameter! There is a statue of Thomas Edison in front of it. Firestone liked these trees because their sap was used to make the tires that he produced.
The Winter Homes
Both the Edison and Ford winter homes were modest and quaint houses. The Edison’s lived there until 1947, when Mina deeded the property to the city of Fort Myers. The Edison home still has the original furnishings. Henry Ford purchased the home next to him in 1906. Ford last visited his estate in 1934. The homes are right on the riverfront of the Caloosahatchee, they had a nice view of the river and Edison’s pier from their back porches. The estates have a number of buildings that you can see, including caretaker’s cottages. The front and rear of the homes are lined with majestic royal palm trees.
The Botanical Gardens
We went in early March 2012 and we had perfect weather. The estates have a botanical garden and the flowers were in full bloom. You’ll see some large bamboo’s growing, a fountain, a swimming pool and a Lily pond. Edison used the filaments from the bamboo on some of his first light bulbs. There is a statue of his wife Mina in the gardens behind the gift shop and museum entry. There is also a water garden with colorful flowering plants behind it. There is a double row of mango trees along the road. The Estate’s Garden Shoppe offers a wide variety of unusual plants including heritage plants, orchids, bamboo, bromeliads, fruits, vegetables, roses, edibles and gift items for sale. We bought an avocado tree to grow at our home in Florida.
The Museums – Edison Inventions
It is mind numbing when you see and read about all the inventions and patents that Thomas Edison created. There are seven gallery rooms filled with his inventions and many videos and educational exhibits. You can also tour the Botanic research lab which Edison, Ford and Firestone worked on developing quick growing plants and natural rubber.
Ford Auto exhibit
You get to see some historic Ford vehicles like Model T’s and Model A’s. They even have a canteen vehicle that they used on hunting trips. It’s really amazing to see these old vehicles and how different they are compared to the cars we drive today.
They offer both self-guided audio tours and tours with historians who will tell you about the history as you walk the grounds. We chose the self-guided tour, where the give you a hand set that you press the button at certain locations. You also have the choice of just seeing the museum or doing the full tour.
All in all, it was a nice day. I learned a lot of history and saw some very beautiful gardens and homes. I’d definitely recommend that you visit the Edison and Ford estates if you are in the Fort Myers area.
If you are planning a trip to Florida you should visit FloridaVacationPlans.com . The website is full of vacation planning ideas for Florida travel.