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Christmas at the Ford Edison Winter Estate, Fort Myers.
Built on a breathtaking setting on McGregor Boulevard, Fort Myers are the winter homes of Thomas Edison and his great friend Henry Ford. Edison, one of America’s most prolific inventors, collapsed from exhaustion and was advised by his Doctor to find somewhere warm to live and work. After visiting Fort Myers, he bought a 14 acre plot on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River. His home, Seminole Lodge, was built in Maine in 1885 and transported to Florida by schooners. The Eddison’s invited their good friends, Mr and Mrs Henry Ford to spend a holiday with them and as a result Henry Ford bought the house next door, Mangoes. Visit during the daytime and you will meet Living History Characters with the chance of bumping into Mr. Edison or Mr Ford. Few people know that Edison was also a keen botanist. The garden contains hundreds of plants brought from around the world.
The estate is probably most spectacular during the Christmas season. From mid December until early January the tall palms lining McGregor Road are covered in lights. The house and gardens and laboratory are open from 5. 30pm – 9pm for self-guided tours.
It is a good time to visit as most of the day visitors have gone home. There is plenty of parking opposite the homes. Arrive at the ticket booth as close to 5. 30pm as you can then take a self-guided tour for the reduced entrance fee of $16 for adults/$1 for children. This also includes admission to the laboratory and museum. A few minute earlier and visitors are charged the normal day time rate.
First cross the road to the Ford/Edison homes, enter the gate in the little picket fence and it feels like stepping back in time. The Floridian style homes, with over-hanging porches and French doors to catch the breeze from the river, are furnished just as they were in the early 1900’s. It is worth spending a few dollars on a guide to help spot innovations which we do not even have in our homes today. In the garage beside Henry Ford’s home are several of his old cars. Walk through the gardens to the beautiful Caloosahatchee River for a spectacular winter sunset. On your return you will find both houses and garden are a mass of twinkling lights.
Back across the road is an eerily illuminated banyan tree. The largest in Florida, 400 feet round, it was grown by Edison from a seedling given to him by his friend Harvey Firestone (Firestone Tyres). Close by is Edison’s laboratory where he conducted many of his experiments. This has been left just as it was in his lifetime complete with his bed where he used to take the occasional nap. There is also a Museum with samples of some of the 1007 patent inventions taken out by Edison – including the phonograph on which he recorded ‘Mary had a little lamb’.
Author: Val Easton
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