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Edison and Ford's Winter Estates

We are going to go way back to July 19, 2006 for this one, back to our honeymoon and before we even had any clue about starting Our Haunted Travel adventures.

This was one of the places we wanted to visit during our trip, and we were so glad that we did. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford's winter Estates (properties next to each other) in Fort Myers, Florida, now one large historical site.

We were both a little smaller (no pun attended with this picture of us next to the tall stature of Thomas Edison) and our hair was much darker back then, but our honeymoon was a great adventure. We visited so many awesome places during this 18 day road trip from Northeast, Ohio all the way down the coast and crossing over to the gulf side of Florida, but this location will remain near and dear to our hearts.

The complex (which most people we have talked to about, and they didn't even know that it existed) is located at 2350 McGregor Blvd, Fort Myers, FL 33901. If you are in the area, we highly recommend that you stop by and experience this place for yourself. Originally, the complex was two separate properties with the Edison's owning one and later on the Ford's owning the estate next door.

Edison's "Seminole Lodge"

In 1885, Thomas Edison visited Fort Myers and fell in love with the area since there were vast groves of bamboo. He soon purchased 14 acres along the Caloosahatchee River and decided to build a summer home and research laboratory here. In 1886, he built his winter home called "Seminole Lodge". Edison designed the main house, a second house for a friend/partner, and a laboratory. All of the buildings were per-cut by two firms in Maine and then shipped to Fort Myers and assembled on location. They were finished just in time for Edison and his new bride Mina to use the homes for their honeymoon. The complex served as a winter retreat and place of relaxation until Edison's death in 1931 and for his wife Mina until March 6, 1947, at which time she deeded the property over to the city of Fort Myers for $1.00.

Ever the workaholic inventor, Edison used this property as a botanical laboratory for different species of palm trees, rubber plans, and bamboo plants among other plants. He was working on several experiments to find not only a long lasting filament for his electric light bulb, but also a formula for his good friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone for a rubber that could be used for tires on automobiles (see more about this below).

You can view more pictures of the interior of the home and laboratory by visiting our photo page for this location (link down below), but one thing we want to point out is the pool. Although he was not fond of swimming, Thomas added a pool to the estate in 1910 for Mina and the kids. Of course, Edison Portland Cement was used to create the pool. In 1929, Mina had the area around the pool enhanced and called the area, the tea house.

The Vagabonds

In the spring of 1914 Thomas Edison invited Henry Ford, along with wife Clara and son Edsel, to Fort Myers. A group including the Ford family, the Edison family, as well as the naturalist John Burroughs, ventured into the Everglades to camp. This was the first of many such trips the group would enjoy in other locations around the country.

Besides the camping trip, the group also explored Edison's gardens, went to town for a carnival, baseball spring training, and a stop at the local school. Fondly remembering the fun had by all, Mrs. Edison invited the Fords back to Seminole Lodge on many occasions. The following is some archived footage from one of their camping excursions.

Ford's "The Mangoes"

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, and after some negotiations, Ford purchased the home for $20,000.

Collection of Ford Model T's in the garage at the complex.

Rubber laboratory

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 Henry Ford to try to find a rubber tree or plant that could grow quickly in the United States and provide a domestic supply of rubber. 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.

After testing over 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.

We had a great time visiting this location, and if we ever get back down to this area we are going to make sure to get back there and see the $14 million in renovations that they have done since we visited in 2006. If you have visited this location or would like to visit this location in the future, please let us know in the comments below.

Marianne took over 590 photos while we were at this location. You can view them on our photo page we setup.

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