The Edison and Ford Winter Estates, Fort Meyers, Florida

Fort Meyers, Florida

This Spring Break, we are escaping our Minnesota cold weather for the sun and surf of Florida. We arrived last week to Fort Meyers, Florida, located at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River and the Gulf of Mexico. The fort was established in the 1800’s to support the war against the Seminole Indians.

The Edison and Ford Estates

Much to the dismay of our young children, we decided to skip the beach, and start our holiday with a visit to the Edison and Ford Estates. Thomas Edison, founder of General Electric, and inventor of the light bulb (and about a thousand more inventions) purchased a large parcel of along the Caloosahatchee River in 1885 to build his summer home and scientific laboratory, named Seminole Lodge. His good buddy, and former employee, Henry Ford, the inventor of the first mass produced automobile, purchased the neighboring house, the Mangoes, in 1916.

Seminole Lodge and Guest House

The Edison estate is the moderately sized house encircled with a wide veranda. The dining and living rooms are directly accessed through entryways from the veranda.

Seminole Lodge Dining Room

All the furniture was imported up the river by steamer boat.

As expected, Edison's house is powered by electricity and lit with his invention, the light bulb. The original invention was hand-blown glass with a carbonized bamboo filament which lasted 1200 hours.

Edison's daughter was the pianist in the family

Stairway to the family bedrooms

The Guest House

Seminole Lodge had an adjoining guest house. The furnishings were solidly made but more practical than luxurious.

The Ford Estate

Henry Ford’s Estates was named “the Mangoes” because there were so many mango trees on his property.

Mango trees on the Ford Estate

Like Seminole Lodge, the Mangoes is surrounded by a wide veranda with beautiful wood floors.

The rooms are smaller and simpler than those of Seminole Lodge

Space-saving upright piano and built-in seating

The Mangoes Entryway

Staircase to the family bedrooms

The dining room

Through the doorway is the butler's pantry and a small kitchen

The kitchen had a small pantry

The Gardens

Both Seminole Lodge and the Mangoes are surrounded by beautiful gardens that border the wide Caloosahatchee river. The garden today has approximately 1700 different species of flowers and plants.

Palm trees line walkways on the estates

Mature trees in the park behind the house 

Seawall built by Edison to protect the land from erosion and to provide a beach area for his family.

Beautiful walkways and gardens

Looking pond behind Edison's study

Seminole Lodge's famous Banyan Grove

Edison’s original 1 foot Banyan plant is now a grove of Banyan trees. Growing Banyan trees satisfied two aims: provide rubber for his materials experiments and to start a US source of rubber. Edison was so concerned with US dependence on foreign sources of rubber, that he formed a research corporation (Edison Botanic Research Corporation) with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone (of Firestone Tires). The grounds of Seminole Lodge provided 5 acres of land for the hybridization and cultivation of rubber plants and trees. His work focused on a north american plant, the Goldenrod, which produces rubber in its leaves. Edison and his team created a Goldenrod hybrid that grew up to 12 feet high and produced up to 12% of rubber in its leaves. 

Edison efforts in domestic rubber production developed methods and techniques of mass-producing rubber that are still used today. Edison was also one of the first to patent plant hybrids and-and hybridization processes.

Edison’s Laboratory

Edison’s Laboratory is a huge building that lies on the edge of the estate, by the Banyan grove. At the front of the building is a large office shared by Edison and his staff. Looking at the blackboard, drafting table, and desks, one can imagine the collaborative activity in this room. Through the office are doors leading to the warehouse laboratory with 20’+ ceilings that are embedded with leather pully’s that drive the machines below. Lining the walls are shelves of tools and bottles of chemicals.

The front office

The laboratory's high ceiling

Rubber distillery

The darkroom

UP NEXT: Sanibel Island

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