Florida Historic Sites

The Thomas Edison & Henry Ford Winter Estates – A Glimpse into the Life of Two Great Men

In 1885, Thomas Edison was already a successful inventor when he purchased 13 & 1/2 acres on the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers, Florida. The home was to be the winter residence for him and his family, and he later named the estate The Seminole Lodge.

Among the many visitors that the Edison family entertained at The Seminole Lodge was Thomas Edison’s good friend and automobile industrialist, Henry Ford.

Edison and Ford had a deep friendship, and Henry Ford enjoyed his visits so much that in 1916 when the opportunity arose to purchase the property next door, he jumped at it. The two families wintered together for many years, and it was a known fact that the one day of the year that you were sure to find Henry Ford at his Florida home was February 11th, Thomas Edison’s birthday.

As John and I viewed the homes, cottages, workshops, and garages of Edison and Ford’s winter homes, of all things that got me thinking the most, it was the wicker furniture. Not just any wicker furniture, mind you, the original wicker furniture. That is when it really hit me, I was walking where two of the most forward-thinking men in American History once walked. I was moved to think that I was walking through the past of two men responsible for the many inventions and the luxuries that we almost take for granted today. Did you know that Thomas Edison was responsible for 1,093 patents in his lifetime?

The Pier was the first structure that Edison had built on the property. The railroad did not reach Fort Myers at the time the property was purchased, so the easiest way to get building materials there was via the Caloosahatchee River. Because the river was so shallow, a long pier had to be built in order for the ships to dock. At one time, the pier was over 1,500 feet in length.

The Grounds

Clara Ford and Mina Edison shared a love of gardening, and the Ford property especially had an abundance of fruit trees. Clara Ford had a great love for roses and had her own rose garden on the property. As we walked the grounds, John and I couldn’t help but admire all the beautiful flowers, towering palms, and exotic plant life, and the view of the river only enhances the beauty of the grounds.

The Lab and Museum

To me, our entire visit seemed like a walk back in time but none so much as a walk through the museum. To see some of the first automobiles, phonographs, and pieces of motion picture equipment and to think of how far we have come since those first days of their invention. It really wasn’t all that long ago when you think about it, and I couldn’t help but marvel at the thought of the genius of these two men and their lifetime of accomplishments.

Today we have all sorts of music gadgets, we have a zillion movie channels, and tons of other things to keep us entertained every waking second of every day. It is hard to imagine a life without it all. Think about it for a moment, what delight people must have had to see that first moving picture or to hear that first musical recording.

In the last years of Thomas Edison’s life, he, along with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, were diligently researching plants and trees in hopes of discovering a source for producing rubber in the United States. A walk through the lab gives one an interesting perspective of their work and how it was done.

Their research found the Banyan Tree was a good source of latex; however, due to its slow growth, it would turn out not to be a good economic prospect. The massive trees are a natural wonder of the museum’s grounds.

The Edison and Ford Winter Estate is located at 2350 McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers, Florida. They are open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas hours are 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. ( open until 9 pm during December for
“Holiday Nights’ a special holiday event).

Self Guided Tour Ticket Prices: Adults $25 Teen $20 (ages 13-19) Children $15 (ages 6-12) Children FREE (ages 5 and under)

John and I did the self-guided tour. A neat little thing about the self-guided tour is the free downloadable cell phone app. or If you don’t want to download the app, you have the option to call a local number and listen to an audio recording. Instructions are at each location along the way where audio information is available. John and I chose this method, and it was easy peasy.

There is quite a bit of walking involved, but there are numerous beautiful spots to sit and rest under a shaded tree. The self-guided tour will allow you to go at your own pace. My recommendation is to go early, go during the week when it is less crowded, and take your time.

Guided Tour Prices: Adults $30 Teen $25 (ages 13-19) Children $18 (ages 6-12) Children FREE (ages 5 and under)

The estates, exhibits, grounds, museum, and lab are ADA compliant, but I made one minor observation that I would like to mention. To preserve the homes’ furnishings, visitors do not walk through the homes but view-through plexiglass 3/4 doorways. I am about 5 feet, and the plexiglass came up to my chest. While the plexiglass is, of course, see-through, it does, in my opinion, obstruct the view just a tad. A person confined to a wheelchair and unable to stand to look over the plexiglass will have to look through it. It may be a minor thing, but I thought it was important to mention.

I should also mention that if you are like me and a sucker for gift shops, you might want to take some extra spending money. I found a couple of unique items that, of course, I could not live without. And if you are into plants, you will love their selection of orchids, bromeliads, and other exotic plants at their nursery.

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