Posted October 30, 2014
By EMILY DABAU
FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Edison & Ford Winter Estates here abound with tropical plants that make up the lush grounds, as well as a history behind what is now a popular attraction bringing in locals as well as South Florida visitors.
The estates house the homes of Thomas A. Edison and Henry Ford in a tropical haven consisting of 20 acres of botanical gardens, a museum and research laboratories. Edison originally purchased the property in 1885 during a visit to Florida to build a vacation home. Ford later decided to purchase the adjoining property for a bungalow of his own. In 1947 Edison’s wife Minda gave the property to the City of Fort Myers in honor and memory of her husband, allowing it to be opened for public tours.
The grounds now allow guests to find both historical artifacts from the inventors’ and rare plant species from around the world in one visit.
The Edison Ford Museum features a collection of inventions and special exhibit galleries with inventions and artifacts of Edison’s work inventing the telegraph, telephone, the original Ford Model T that was a gift from Ford and exhibits on their findings of rubber plants along with friend Harvey Firestone.
Galleries like the “Hall of Inventions” display photographs and early equipment Edison for his inventions like electric light.
In addition to the historical homes and collections, the estate also opens the gardens and botanic research laboratory to visitors.
The Edison Laboratory, which was named a National Historic Chemical Landmark this year by the American Chemical Society is a landmark, was built in 1928 and preserved so that visitors can see the original machine shop, chemical processing area and dark room of the lab.
“Because of Edison’s contribution to chemistry, we have been designated as the first site in Florida and only one of a few in the nation,” said Edison Ford President & CEO Chris Pendleton in a recent press release. “We are a scientific site as well as a beautiful estate and garden.”
The Edison & Ford Winter Estates gardens, including the Edison Moonlight Garden, feature trees planted during Edison’s time. The gardens house more than 1,700 plants including tropical a banyan tree, bamboo trees and tropical fruit trees.
Vanessa Spadoni, who had a wedding at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, often visits the gardens with her family.
“There is so much beauty and history,” she said. “There’s something special about being on the grounds where such intelligent inventors spent a lot of their time.”
Tailored to a variety of interests, tours are offered at the estates to allow visitors to explore the history, gardens, museum and river. Tours include a historian tour of the homes, museum and laboratory visit, garden tours, behind the scenes tour, river cruise tour and a complete estates tour. Self-guided tours of the garden and estates are also an option.
Edison & Ford Winter Estates Tours
Guided Garden Tour: Tour detailing the Edison & Ford gardens as well as the different plants and species.
- When: 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays.
- Cost: $30 for adults, $16 for children ages 6 to 12, free for children 5 and under.
Complete Estates Tour: tour of Edison & Ford Estates, with admission to the Laboratory & Museum
- When: 9 a.m to 5:30 p.m. daily.
- Cost: $20 for adults, $11 for children ages 6 to 12, free for children 5 and under.
Behind the Scenes Tour: tour led by the curatorial staff giving an inside look of areas normally closed off.
- When: 10:30 a.m. Thursdays.
- Cost: $50 for adults, $20 for children ages 6 to 12, free for children ages 5 and under.
Historian Tour: Site historian-led tour of the Edison & Ford Estates with admission to the Museum & Laboratory
- When: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.
- Cost: $25 for adults, $15 for children ages 6 to 12, free for children ages 5 and under.
Museum and Laboratory self-guided tour:
- When: When: 9 a.m to 5:30 p.m. daily.
- Cost: $12 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 to 12 and under, free for children ages 5 and under.