We heard that Mr. Thomas Alva Edison had a winter home down in Ft Myers. And more importantly, that it was an historic site, open to the public (for a fee of course). All right! Let's Go!
It was charming! And surprisingly contemporary looking. Well, yes the decor was of the period, but the exterior? If it wasn't clearly marked as Mr. and Mrs. Edison's Winter Estate, I would not have thought anything more than, "cute house".
It's right on the water (of course!) but not the ocean. It's on the Caloosahatchee River which is REALLY big, very wide and 67 miles long in fact. There used to be a pier, the pilings are still there. And the entire estate comprises 21 acres. Of course that includes multiple dwellings, generous and beautiful lawns, Mr. Edisons' various laboratories and botanic gardens. Oh, and now also a museum.
The biggest surprise, to me anyway, is that it's not actually the Edison Winter Estates, it's the Edison Ford Winter Estates! What? I knew that they were contemporaries and collaborators, but I had no idea that it went further than that! Very Cool! They were buds! I mean very close friends. They didn't just have winter homes next door to each other, they vacationed together, often taking their families off on wonderful camping adventures!
Actually it was Mr. and Mrs. Edison who first built a home on the site which was finished in 1886 . Then he had a "guest house" built (which my current home would fit in a corner of). Then a built-in pool and bath house! The pool was built in 1910 and was one of the first residential pools built in Florida actually! There was also his laboratory and gardens. And at some point he had a study built for himself that was it's own wonderful separate building. There is a caretakers house, various gardens and some of the most wonderful trees!
Mr. Edison had this idea about using bamboo for the lightbulb filament. This required a great deal of experimentation. As it turns out, bamboo grows amazingly fast so growing it right there, on his own property, made his experiments one step easier.
There were rose gardens, fruit tree lined walkways, masses of orchids from all over the world and his botanic gardens for yet more experiments. The so-called moon-garden was probably my favourite. It was a little tucked away, half-hidden garden with a water-lily dotted pond in the middle. Still the lovely peaceful place it was always intended to be.
In 1916, Henry Ford moved to the house next door and turned a nearby cottage into a garage for his many cars and his caretakers residence. Some of the cars are still on site and in gorgeous condition.
Both homes are beautifully maintained with period-decor rooms that you can peep into from the many windows and plexiglass covered doorways. All three homes (Mr. Edison's, Mr. Ford's and the Guest House) have really deep covered porches that go all the way around the house and were my favourite part. Of the houses I mean. I spent a lot of time just adoring the porches.
I loved the gardens, I loved the houses, I loved the history of it all and well, it's hard to beat the view from any direction. The laboratory was especially fascinating. It was enormous and complex and mysterious and everything a good laboratory should be. But my absolute favourite part, no surprise, was the museum. Although it is a rather small museum, it is very well done and we spent far more time in it than we expected.
Ultimately, Mr. Edison passed away in 1931 and Mr. Ford in 1947. Mrs. Edison willed the property to the city of Ft Myers to preserve her husbands memory and visitors began to arrive shortly thereafter. The beautiful compound, as it is now, grew with the purchase of Mr. Ford's winter home 1988 - a wee bit more than 100 years after Mr Edison first built his home so very long ago - and after some sprucing up was opened to the public as it now stands, in 1990. It is one of the most visited historic sites in the entire USA. And it should be.
Mr. Edison was of course famous for many inventions! But he was an inventor at a time in our history when there was so much change happening all over our country. Big changes, big ideas, big inventions from some truly amazing people And most of the countryembraced these new ideas, eagerly raced toward a future that people like, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone (also a friend of his) and Henry Ford were helping to create. I cannot begin to imagine where we would have been without them!
We had a wonderful visit and will probably go again another time. But for now, I will leave you with some famous (or perhaps not so famous) Thomas Edison quotes that I have always liked and the suggestion that if you ever get the chance, visit the Edison Ford Winter Estates in Ft Myers. It was pretty awesome.
"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.
Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.