Edison and Ford Winter Estates
Thomas Edison Winter Estate and Henry Ford Estate
Henry Ford's winter home
|Location||Fort Myers, Florida|
|Built||1886 (Edison Estate)
1915 (Ford Estate)
|NRHP Reference #||91001044|
|Added to NRHP||August 12, 1991 (Edison Estate)
September 8, 1988 (Ford Estate)
The Edison and Ford Winter Estates contain a historical museum and 21 acre (8.5 hectares) botanical garden on the adjacent sites of the winter homes of Thomas Alva Edison and Henry Ford beside the Caloosahatchee River in southwestern Florida. It is located at 2350 McGregor Boulevard, Fort Myers, Florida, USA. It is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm, including Sundays. On April 18, 2012, the AIA's Florida Chapter placed the Edison and Ford Winter Estates on its list of Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places. The American Chemical Society (ACS) recognized the Edison Botanical Research Laboratory at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates as a National Historic Chemical Landmark on May 25, 2014.
The present site dates from 1885, when Edison first visited Florida and purchased the property to build a vacation home. His home, completed in 1886 and later dubbed "Seminole Lodge", served as a winter retreat and place of relaxation until Edison's death in 1931. Edison’s good friend Henry Ford purchased the adjoining property, "The Mangoes" from Robert Smith of New York in 1916. Ford's craftsman style bungalow was built in 1911 by Smith. In 1947, Mrs. Mina Edison deeded the property to the City of Fort Myers in memory of her husband for the enjoyment of the public. It was opened for public tours soon after. By 1988, the adjacent Henry Ford winter estate was purchased and opened for public tours in 1990. In 2003, the governance of the site was transferred from the City to a new non-profit corporation, Thomas Edison & Henry Ford Winter Estates, Inc. (dba Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Inc) whose mission is to protect, preserve and interpret the site and future growth and development. The new corporation successfully completed a more than $10 million restoration project in the following years. A separate fundraising arm, Edison-Ford Winter Estates Foundation, Inc., was created to assist the restoration project with no function in governance, programming or development but rather to assist the governing board with the initial restoration.
Edison's botanical garden contains more than a thousand varieties of plants from around the world, including African Sausage Trees and a 400-foot (120 m) banyan tree planted in the mid-1920s. The gardens feature plants grown for industrial purposes (such as bamboo, used in light bulb filaments) and those which Mina Edison planted for their beauty, including roses, orchids and bromeliads. The gardens were designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman.
At present the collections include: Acalypha hispida, Arenga pinnata, Artocarpus heterophyllus, Billbergia spp., Blighia sapida, Bougainvillea glabra, Bougainvillea spectabilis, Calliandra haematocephala, Cananga odorata, Cattleya hybrid, Cattleya spp., Chorisia speciosa, Citrus spp., Clerodendrum speciosissimum, Cordyline terminalis, Cycad spp., Dendrobium, Dombeya spp., Epidendrum ciliare, Ficus auriculata, Ficus benghalensis, Ficus saussureana, Hibiscus schizopetalus, Holmskioldia sanguinea, Ibosa riparia, Ixora chinensis, Kigelia africana, Leea coccinea, Malvaviscus arboreus, Musa spp., Parmentiera cereifera, Plumbago auriculata, Solandra nitida, Spathoglottis plicata, Tabernaemontana corymbosa, Tecoma stans, Thunbergia erecta, Tibouchina semidecandra, and hundreds more.
During the period of 1914-1918 (World War I), Edison became concerned with America's reliance on foreign supplies of rubber. He partnered with Harvey Firestone and his good friend Henry Ford to try to find a rubber tree or plant that could grow quickly in the United States and, above all, contain enough latex to support his research endeavor. In 1927, the three men contributed $25,000 each and created the Edison Botanic Research Corporation in an attempt to find a solution to this problem. In 1928, the Edison Botanic Research Corporation laboratory was constructed. It was in Fort Myers, Florida that Mr. Edison would do the majority of his research and planting of his exotic plants and trees, sending any results or sample rubber residues up to West Orange, New Jersey, to his large Thomas A. Edison "Invention Factory".
After testing 17,000 plant samples, Edison eventually discovered a source in the plant Goldenrod (Solidago leavenworthii). Thomas Edison died in 1931 and the rubber project was transferred to the United States Department of Agriculture five years later.
Visitors to the Edison Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers will enjoy more than 20 acres of historical buildings and gardens including the 1928 Botanical Laboratory and the Edison Ford Inventions Museum. They will also enjoy a variety of programs, tours and activities, plus time to explore this unique tropical site restored to reflect the period of 1929.
In addition to tours and visitor activities, Edison Ford also offers school and education tours for all ages, an extensive summer camp program, homeschool, emerging inventors programs for toddlers as well as travel and offsite tour opportunities. Other specialty programs include Holiday Nights (rated one of the nation’s top 10), Black Maria Film Festival, Antique Car Shows, Garden Talks and a wide variety of special events throughout the year. The site can be reserved for events, weddings, corporate functions, meetings and group tours. Groups of twenty or more receive a discounted rate with advance reservations.
Opened in February 2014 is The Marina at Edison Ford. Located at 2360 West 1st Street, Fort Myers, Florida 33901 and by water at 26° 38.9' N - 81° 52.5' W or Marker #54 on the Okeechobee Waterway along the Caloosahatchee River. The addition of The Marina at Edison Ford to the Fort Myers River District provides the Southwest Florida area with a destination to dock, dine at Pinchers Restaurant, learn about environmental conservation and experience wildlife in its natural habitat on the daily river excursions with the boating company, Pure Fort Myers, on the M/V Edison Explorer for sightseeing, dolphin watching and sunset cruises.
Edison Ford Winter Estates is a National Register Historic Site and received the Award of Excellence for restoration from both the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Garden Clubs, Inc. The site is a Florida Historic Landmark and has been designated as a National Historical Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society, the first site in the state of Florida to receive this honor.
The Edison and Ford Winter Estates research library and archival materials are also available for viewing with appointment. The research library contains several hundred books on Fort Myers history, botany, as well as biographies on Thomas Edison and Henry Ford and their families.
Open to the public since 1947, Edison Ford Winter Estates is one of the most visited historic home sites in America. Designated as an educational and charitable not-for-profit organization, Edison Ford is governed by a Board of Trustees, professional staff and a large volunteer group. Open daily, 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., and until 9 p.m. throughout the month of December for Edison Ford Holiday Nights. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. For more information and to get involved, call 239.334.7419 or visit the Edison Ford website at www.edisonfordwinterestates.org
View of the Caloosahatchee River from the estate
Edison, John Burroughs and Ford at the estate in 1914
- List of botanical gardens in the United States
- List of historic houses in Florida
- List of museums in Florida
- Staff (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places
- "Florida Memory". Florida Memory. Retrieved 2016-01-12.
- "Guide to the Ellen McGowan Biddle Shipman Papers,1914-1946". rmc.library.cornell.edu. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
- "Edison and Ford Estates Research Policies". edisonfordwinterestates.org. Retrieved March 21, 2016.
- Albion, Michele Wehrwein. (2008). The Florida Life of Thomas Edison. ISBN 978-0-8130-3259-7.
- Smoot, Tom (2004). The Edisons of Fort Myers. ISBN 1-56164-312-2.
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