Edison and Ford Winter Estates
Although there are dozens of historic and pedigreed homes throughout Florida, none capture the imagination or evoke an era as completely as the Edison and Ford Winter Estates (2350 McGregor Blvd., 239/334-7419, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, lab/museum $12 adults, $5 children, children 5 and under free, home/gardens tour $20 adults, $11 children, children 5 and under free, guided botanical tour $24 adults, $10 children, children 5 and under free).
Thomas Edison bought 13 acres of riverfront land in Fort Myers in 1885 and the next year began construction on the property where he and his new wife, Mina, would retreat during most of the following winters. From the day Edison first moved onto the estate, the city of Fort Myers has fallen over itself to honor his part-time residency (after all, if it weren’t for Edison bringing his own electric dynamo to town, the city likely wouldn’t have been electrified for another couple of decades).
Edison’s winter home in what was then a swampy hinterland inevitably brought further high-profile guests, including Teddy Roosevelt, John Burroughs, Herbert Hoover, and Henry Firestone. When Henry Ford arrived in Fort Myers in 1914 he was so impressed with the area he bought a home right next door to Edison’s.
Sixteen years after Edison’s death in 1931, his widow deeded the estate to the city of Fort Myers; in 1988 the city purchased the neighboring Ford Estate, and today, the combined properties are the primary attraction in Fort Myers.
Guests to the estates can explore the gardens, grounds, and houses as well as a most-engaging 15,000-square-foot museum filled with various inventions and memorabilia from both men’s illustrious pasts. Edison’s lab has been kept “as-is,” reflecting its state during the inventor’s final days, and is included as part of the museum-style tour of the main house. Admission is expensive, but with the period furnishings and Edison’s swimming pool, one of the first concrete swimming pools in Florida, and the impressive banyan trees and verdant gardens, it’s certainly worthwhile.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition