The Edison-Ford Winter Estates
Fort Myers, FL

January 02, 2002

As we travel, looking for the stories that make this country the great place that it is, we sometime come across an additional chapter to a story we had previously written. Such was the case with the great Indian Chief Sitting Bull which we followed in additional stories from the Little Big Horn, to his stay in Canada, then again for his days riding in a Wild West Show with Buffalo Bill Cody. Now again, we had an opportunity to continue the story of a famous American. We first wrote about Thomas Edison as a boy in Port Huron, MI., when he worked on a train selling papers and experimenting with things. We later found a place where he had stayed in Canada. Now we had arrived at the summer home he used in his later years. Thomas Edison's relationship with Fort Myers, FL., began in 1885 when he and his business partner Ezra Gilliland arrived in town. The next day, they both decided to purchase land and chose property adjacent to the Caloosahatchee River. They constructed two identical homes and Edison installed a small electrical laboratory. The following year Edison brought his new bride, Mina Miller Edison to the town for their honeymoon. Three days later they moved into the completed summer home they now called the Seminole Lodge. Unfortunately troubles developed between Edison and Gilliland and Edison stayed away the next winter. In 1896, his path would cross yet another famous American. At a convention of the Association of Edison Illuminating companies, a young aggressive inventor named Henry Ford so impressed Edison with his newly designed gas powered horseless carriage that they quickly became good friends. Edison returned to Florida, having broken his relationship with Gilliland, was able to purchase the Gilliland house in 1906. He converted it into a guest house. Although best known for his work in electricity, Edison was also an accomplished botanist. In 1907 he offered to plant Royal Palm trees along Riverside Avenue. Fort Myers gladly accepted. In 1914, another life long friend joined the Edisons. Well known naturalist John Burroughs became a regular fixture at the winter home. That same year, the Ford family arrived and along with Burroughs, the two took extended camping trips into the Everglades. By 1916, Ford arranged to purchase a home adjacent to the Edison's which he called Mangoes.

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