The Edison Winter Estates date back to 1885 when Thomas Edison purchased more than 13 acres of land. Following his marriage a year later, he made Fort Myers his winter residence, until I n 1947 his wife gave the property to the City of Fort Myers. Apart from the main house, there is also a Guest house which welcomed many important guests including Henry Ford. It was following one of their visits to Edison’s estates that Henry Ford and his wife decided to buy the next-door home. The house was opened to the public in 1990.
Between historical buildings and gardens, Fort Myers covers 20 acres of land. The gardens have different themes and are home to 1700 plants coming from 400 different species. The Moonlight Garden is the largest of the gardens and gets its name from the pool that reflects the moon at night. There are also a number of Heritage Plants in the gardens such as the sausage tree, Tropical Snowball, and King’ Mantle. The gardens still feature plants planted during Edison’s times such as the Bayan Tree which was planted in the 1920s, making it one of the largest trees in the continental US. There are Palm Trees, Succulents, and Bamboo trees which were imperative to Edison’s Light Bulb Experiments. The Heritage and Community Gardens were used by Edison and Ford to grow their own food supplies, and they are still used nowadays. There are also a series of tropical fruit trees such as papaya, mango, lychee, and Loquat. It is also worth visiting the Edison Botanical Laboratory and the garden shop which sells different plant-related souvenirs including plants, and accessories.
The Edison Ford National Historic Site has been open since 1947 and is one of the most visited historic homes. In the museum, visitors can learn about the thousands of inventions Edison made in his life, such as X-ray machines, the light bulb, electricity, and motion pictures among others. There is also the Model T Car Ford gave Edison as a gift, the room is also filled with the photos of the two together and with their families.
Visitors can take a close look at the laboratory where Edison, Ford, and Harvey Firestone researched ways to source and produce rubber naturally in the US, for which Goldenrod was selected as the most suitable. Following Edison’s death, the laboratory was passed to the U.S Department of Agriculture. One can also take a look at Edison’s Phonograp hs which was the earliest form of recorded sound that could be played back, he was also a pioneer in playing recorded images through the Kinetograph and Kinetoscope. One can also take a look at the historical battle between Tesla and Edison in creating electricity.
The opening hours of the museum store are 9 am to 5:30 pm. The Edison Ford App allows visitors to learn more about the location through audio narration, visuals, and photos. Audio tours are also available, although there are many informative panels along the way to help visitors make their way around. One can also visit the Edison Mall, where an Edison Ford Shoppe is also open, selling artworks, souvenirs, and Edison and Ford’s collector’s items. For families and children, the Smithsonian Spark is, interactive and gives an insight into scientific themes like sound waves, as well as vehicle construction. Visitors can also follow a boat tour on the Caloosahatchee River actors reenact the characters as they share aspects of their lives while living on the estates. One should keep an eye out for wildlife including rays and dolphins. Visitors can park at the free car – park.
The Edison and Ford Winter Estate is an entertaining yet informative outing, and one should allow at least two hours to see the main attractions. Apart from the museum, laboratory, gardens, and the homes, the setting of the area and the nearby river also make it worth visiting. While modernization has taken place with air – conditioning is installed in the museum, the estate takes you back in time as you appreciate Edison and Ford’s genius at that moment in history