If you are looking to enjoy the beautiful Florida weather and learn something along the way, look no further than the uber-charming Edison and Ford Winter Estates in downtown Fort Myers on Florida’s Gulf Coast. It’s a perfect recipe of U.S. and Florida history with a dash of architecture, botany, engineering and innovation mixed in.
Prolific inventor Thomas Edison and automobile pioneer Henry Ford, personal friends and business collaborators, purchased adjacent winter estates near the Fort Myers waterfront to escape the brutal northern winters. The Edison estate boasts a main house, adjoining guest house, Edison’s study, caretaker’s home and swimming pool complex. The Ford estate sits steps away next door.
Just an hour-and-a-half drive south on I-75 from the Tampa Bay area, these homes take visitors on a journey back to the turn of the 20th century to discover how these two great men lived, worked and played in the Florida sunshine. Today, the complex (and your admission ticket) includes an expansive museum, botanical gardens, historic and beautifully maintained homes, garages of classic Ford automobiles, Edison’s study and his Florida laboratory.
Visitors could spend hours perusing the myriad of Edison inventions, such as the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, even the movie camera. Edison filed and held an astounding 1,093 patents, 389 for light and power alone, and his contribution to sound and picture recording is monumental.
Check out the beautifully maintained 1916 Ford Model-T given to Edison by Ford. Ford once said of the famous Model-T, “The consumer can choose any color he wants as long as it’s black.” So why was it called the Model T? Simple! The first design of the ‘horseless carriage’ was called the ‘Model A,’ and subsequent designs moved down the alphabet.
Have fun with the scavenger hunt with your littles or enjoy the self-guided tour with the easy-to-download app. And be sure to look for the photo of Edison napping on the lawn with the President of the United States reading the newspaper in the background. For more information, visit www.edisonfordwinterestates.org.