On Wednesday, we returned to the Edison & Ford Estates. We had gone there last Friday but arrived there in the early afternoon and quickly cancelled our tour because of the crowds – we keep forgetting there are loads of old retired people in Florida :-)!
Following the advice of a staff member for our return trip we arrived there just after opening at 9:00 a.m. This was much better as the crowds were yet to come.
You can either take a self-guided audio tour ($20) using a hand held audio device or a group guided tour ($25). Since we would have to wait at least 45 minutes for a guided tour, we opted for the self-guided tour (we had a coupon so saved $2). It was a perfect 10 kind of day, sunny and in the mid 70’s with a slight breeze. Ah, life is good!
Just outside the museum, there is an enormous Banyan tree which covers about an acre and is perhaps the largest in the continental US. This tree was given to Edison in 1925 by Harvey Firestone because Edison, Ford and Firestone were working on research for a domestic source of natural rubber. The sap of the Banyan tree can be used to create rubber. After years of research, Edison settled on a strain from Goldenrod for his rubber crop – it grew to 12 feet in height and had a yield of 12% latex.
The Edison and Ford estates are spread out over 20 acres along the Caloosahatchee River and consists of nine historic buildings including Edison’s Botanic Research Laboratory and Estates Museum. Edison purchased the property in 1885, later dubbed Seminole Lodge and wintered there until his death in 1931. His good friend, Henry Ford, purchased the property next door, The Mangoes, (photo on the right) in 1916. It was named that because it is surrounded by mango trees.
There are over 1000 varieties of plants and trees (all labelled) from around the world on his estate. The grounds were beautiful – it was easy to envision what it must have been like back when Edison and his wife lived there.
Edison purchased and installed the stately Royal Palms that today still line McGregor Blvd. probably giving the city its nickname “City of Palms”. The story goes that the town of Fort Myers readily agreed to maintain this long lasting gift of Edison.
It was a wonderful day, full of fascinating and interesting information about both Edison and Ford – well worth a visit! A large part of the tour is outside among the various estate buildings and gardens and the museum provides the rest – if you go, plan to spend at least a half day and try to go during nice weather.
The museum is chock full of items that he invented, everything from toasters and waffle irons to the electric light bulb to phonographs and movie cameras! Did you know his very first invention was not the light bulb but was an electric vote counter to be used in counting votes by the legislative bodies? (Wonder if it left chads?) But the government didn’t want any part of it so it was never used!
I’ll let the photos that we took (sorry there are so many but there was such a lot to see!) speak for themselves!