Tag Archives: Fort Meyers

Edison and Ford Winter Estates

3800 miles traveled so far.


We spent several hours exploring the winter homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.  Did you know they were good friends and next door neighbors?  They often collaborated with their other friend Harvey Firestone (yes, the tires) on projects.  In fact, Edison spent so much time in Florida that he had an entire laboratory there and it was the primary location for all his efforts to develop a domestic source of rubber so the US wouldn’t be dependent on foreign imports.


But, I’m getting ahead of myself.  In 1885, Edison sailed down the river and saw a plant on the banks that he thought would be the answer to his search for a long lasting light bulb filament.  He bought the property that day and had a house built there within the year. It was quite a feat since it was wilderness at the time and everything had to arrive by boat.  There wasn’t even a road.  And it wasn’t just a simple house.  It was two stories with a couple sections and servants quarters and it was surrounded by a wide covered deck.  Then, he had a mirror image of the whole house built right beside the original as a guest house.  It’s very impressive, even by today’s standards.


It turned out Edison was right and the bamboo he saw growing on the banks of the river which did prove to be the perfect filament for his light bulb.  Years later, WWI inspired Edison to find a domestic source of rubber.  If our imports were cut off in another war, the US and its industries would be seriously hampered without a reliable source of rubber.  Of course, this project was very interesting to Ford and Firestone, for obvious reasons.


Toward that end, Edison imported plants from all over the world and planted them on the grounds of his home in Florida.  Many of these still exist and they make the grounds an incredibly beautiful garden.  We really enjoyed walking around because it was so peaceful and colorful.  My favorite was the Banyon Tree that Edison planted in 1927.  It was about 4 feet tall.  Today, the tree is enormous and because of the way it grows, it covers a little more than an acre of ground.  Another favorite is the bougainvillea his wife planted in the 19teens.  It’s now about 30 feet tall.  Pictures of everything are here.


Perhaps the most interesting thing is Edison’s forward thinking.  He wanted to develop a battery operated car (way ahead of his time!) and he was concerned about humanity using up its oil resources.  He thought our future was in the power of the sun.


After lunch, we drove to Orlando.  We wanted to do something interesting for dinner, so we walked over to City Walk, which is sort of the Universal Studios equivalent of Downtown Disney.  We ended up with ice-cream instead of dinner, but what are vacations for?


We also ended up at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  What a kick!  It’s an incredible place, I just wish it was bigger and there was more to explore.  We decided to try the main ride, which is a trip through Hogwarts.  We saw classrooms, the Great Hall, Dumbledore’s Study, the Room of Requirements, the sorting hat, the house points tally machines (I forget what they’re called), the greenhouses, and even the talking paintings, including the Fat Lady.  There was even an interesting discussion between the portraits of the four founders about letting in muggle-born students.  It’s all very well done.  The ride itself was fabulous and lots of fun.  Hermione casts a spell so you can fly and then you fly everywhere.  It was very well done.  More on all this tomorow!

Edison and Ford Estates — Photos

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Here’s the banyan tree that covers a little more than an acre. Its all one tree, even though it looks like many. All those “trunks” are actually roots that fall to the ground from the branches above.

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The grounds are really beautiful.

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Edison’s office, the one in the house. He mostly used the little one room office he built away from the house.

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Edison imported plants from all over the world so the grounds are exotic and beautiful.

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The dock was important because that’s how everything was delivered to the house—by boat. The road came along later.

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The Edison’s bedroom.

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Here’s their library. Notice how big all the rooms are. Very unusual for 1886. Also notice the chandalier. It was designed by Edison to hold his light bulbs and he called it an electroleer.

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Since they lived in the wildernes when the house was built, Edison designed and built a system for fire supression.

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A view of the covered walk that connected the main house with the guest house. That’s the guest house in the background.

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The porches were beautiful and quite effective at keeping the house cool.

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Another view of some of the porches on the houses.

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I’d love to have a spot just like this to write. I’d probably finish several novels a year just to have an excuse to sit her for hours a day.

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Here’s a view of the main house from the porch of the guest house.

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I could have spent all day on the porch. It was a beautiful day.

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The vine on this tree is vanilla. Conditins have to be perfect for it to produce vanilla beans, so this vine doesn’t produce. Real vanilla is so expensive because it is so difficult to grow.

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This is Ford’s house. He bought it in about 1915 from the guy who built it. Ford had been a guest at Edison’s house for years and he jumped at the chance to buy the house next door.

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The back of the properties, along the river.

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Another view of the houses, this one from the banks of the river.

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Some of the bamboo used for the filament on the first long lasting light bulb. It creaked in the wind and sometimes the stalks knocked together. It sounded like a groany windchime.

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The pond Edison build near their pool. You can see in the background that hotels and other buildings were build just over the property line.

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Here’s the giant bougainvillea. It’s old and huge.

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This is Edison’s little office. They say his wife sat on the porch and they talked through the open window.

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This is the garden behind the little office. It’s quite pretty.

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This was their swimming pool. It’s thought to be the first private swimming pool in the state.

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Another of Edison’s imports. The name of this tree has slipped my mind, but it’s what they make boomerangs out of.

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Mrs. Edison loved orchids and she planted them on many of the trees on the estate. People from all over sent them to her.

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More of the orchids.

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This tree looked like it had prickly things stuck all over it.

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Some of the orchids at the nursery. They were so varied, and so beautiful.

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I loved the colors in this one.

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I love Gerbera Daisies.

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Everything was beautiful.  We visited on a Sunday, so it wasn’t very crowded. Peaceful and idyllic.

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I got a kick out of this. Can you imagine driving through the Everglades in a Model T, with no roads . . . and in those conditions!

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Way ahead of his time. He also had a battery powered boat that he charged with a generator — all at a time when electrically wired houses didn’t exist.

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Way ahead of his time.  If you can’t read it, click on the image and it will get bigger.

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Here’s the rubber lab near the house. He had many people working here year-round on the problem of finding a domestic source of rubber. He finally found the answer: Goldenrod. However, by then others had figured out how to make rubber synthetically.