In southwest Florida, Fort Myers is home to white-sand beaches, sunny skies, fabulous restaurants, diverse shopping and a surprising gem in the historic Edison & Ford Winter Estates.
These must-see historic estates of inventor-entrepreneurs Thomas Edison and Henry Ford will fascinate the entire family, just like they fascinated me. The neighboring estates offer a glimpse into the lives and legacies of these famous men through their historic homes, botanical gardens, a museum and laboratory.
Exploring the Historic Estates
Many visitors to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates start their explorations by taking a self-guided tour of the estates themselves, which are located along the beautiful Caloosahatchee River. The impressive architecture and stately furnishings of both homes are reminiscent of the opulence and glamour of the 1920s. Large verandahs encircle the houses, and I can imagine how these two friends must have enjoyed the warm winter months, sipping tea on the porch with their families and contemplating their next world-changing ventures.
The Edison Ford Gardens
One of the most impressive features of the estates’ grounds is a banyan tree, planted by Edison himself. It is one of the biggest in the world and takes up an entire acre of the property, but that’s just the start of the expansive gardens on the property. I am fortunate to have Steve, the horticulturist of the estates, to guide me through the lush foliage. The colors and fragrances of the gardens, which include 1,700 plants and flowers from six continents, are truly captivating. The Moonlight Garden, which belonged to Edison’s wife, Mina, and has been restored to its early 1900s glory, quickly became one of my favorites and I spent several minutes reflecting on its beauty and tranquility.
Discovering Innovation in the Museum & Laboratory
After the calm of the gardens, I decide to visit the Museum & Laboratory. Edison patented more than 1,000 inventions in his lifetime, and I was in awe of these spaces dedicated to them. The exhibits covered X-ray machines, phonographs, the light bulb, electricity, motion pictures and more. In another room, you’ll find the Model T car that Ford gave to Edison as a gift. In addition to the classic automobile, the room was completely adorned with heartwarming pictures of the friends and their families. To catch a glimpse into their genius and the lives they led was fascinating.
Boat Tours and More at the Estates
The Edison & Ford Winter Estates also offers a number of other tours for curious visitors, including a Young Inventors’ Tour and Historian Tour, but the boat tour sounded like the ideal end to my explorations. Once aboard, actors portraying Edison and Mina narrate the trip and tell us all about their lives on the estate. As we cruise down the Caloosahatchee River, people spot a variety of wildlife, including manatees, rays and dolphins. In addition to the picturesque scenery, it’s fascinating to hear the stories of life on the estates.