We went to Ft. Myers today to visit the Edison Estate. Here is the inventor (in sculpture form) standing in one of his ginko groves. To this day, Edison holds the most patents of any inventor in the country.
Thomas and Mina Edison were the first Florida snowbirds. They spent winters in Ft. Myers at their estate, Seminole Lodge, from their honeymoon in 1886 until his death in 1931. Mina continued to winter here until she deeded the estate to the City of Ft Myers in 1947. (For a whole dollar. With the stipulation that it be preserved as a legacy.) The Estate, along with the one next door that belonged to Edison's friend Henry Ford, now belong to a Foundation. There are about 20 acres in total.
Although the estate was completed in 1886, the Edisons continued to remodel and make additions. It is restored to the period of 1919 by which time Ford had purchased the estate next door and the Edisons had added several peripheral buildings.
We took a special "sneak preview" tour this time. We got to tour the inside of both estates as well as the botanic research laboratory. Although Edison was a kind of "rock-star" of his era, they kept the inside of the home fairly simple -- this was their country estate where they enjoyed the beautiful weather and being outdoors.
Edison never did stop working during his winters in warmer climates. He had an office and lab here from the beginning. Beginning during World War I, he began working to find a source of natural rubber from a plant that could grow in the United States. He thought goldenrod would work since it is plentiful and grows well everywhere. He worked on this project until June of 1931. He died four months later, back in New Jersey. He was 84 years old.
Rubber production was not a commercial success and Mina Edison and the other investors (Ford and Firestone) dissolved the corporation in 1936. All of the equipment in the lab and shop were left where they were. (Restoration staff have recently disposed of the chemicals and cleaned up asbestos.)
Our tour was led by two of the historians who are employed here and we learned about how the restoration process works. For instance, the replica shutters were created following the original design of wood with iron fixtures. But on the reverse side they have panels that meet state hurricane code requirements.
The Estate grounds are lovely. Both Edisons were interested in gardening and they had plants imported from everywhere (or given to them as gifts).