The Edison Ford Winter Estates and Museum are jewels of southwest Florida. The museum showcases memorabilia highlighting the successes of two of America’s industrialists, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Visitors gaze into rooms of their beautiful homes, imagining life in the early 20th century. Standing by the riverbank surrounded by magnificent trees and plantings, I reflected on the comfort and solitude of the beautiful landscape but absent the background noise of modern transportation.
Edison and Ford Wintering in Southwest Florida
Edison discovered the Fort Myers location in 1885 (population 349) as a place to spend his winters, away from the northern climes of places like West Orange and Menlo Park, New Jersey, or New York City. Edison purchased a 13-acre tract of land along the Caloosahatchee River and proceeded to build houses, gardens, a dock, and laboratories. He called it Seminole Lodge and entertained friends, family, and dignitaries like Herbert Hoover and John Burroughs.
The Edison/Ford Friendship
Edison had become close friends with Henry Ford in the 1890s and naturally invited him to visit his Fort Myers home. Ford subsequently purchased an adjoining lot and built his own winter sojourn named The Mangoes.
Eventually, the sites became the property of the city of Ft. Myers and were restored to their 1929 grandeur as they continued to welcome visitors.
The Legacy of Ford and Edison
The contributions of Ford and Edison to many aspects of modern life are almost immeasurable, ranging from electricity, lighting, technology, film, and sound recording to affordable cars, the 40-hour work week, a living wage, and the assembly line.
Spending a day on the grounds of this special place is relaxing and inspiring. One cannot help but gaze in awe at the contributions of these two men. I particularly enjoyed the cars, gadgets, flathead engines, and 75,000-watt lightbulb.
Perseverance and Intellect
Ford and Edison attended little formal education. As a child, Ford spent eight years in a one-room schoolhouse. Edison attended school for just a few months and was expelled. His mother taught him at home after his teachers wrote to her that he was too stupid to come to school. These industry pioneers reflect the values and consequences of hard work, perseverance, ambition, and vision. As author Stephen King noted, “Talent is as common as table salt. The difference between a talented person and a successful one is a lot of hard work.” Although Edison built this home as a winter getaway, he couldn’t help but build laboratories there to continue his work.
Enjoy these photos of the museum and grounds.