Edison & Ford Winter Estates
A Salute to Preservation property in Fort Myers, Fla.
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On the Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers, Fla., are two rambling, side-by-side estates. Seminole Lodge and The Mangoes were the winter homes of good friends Thomas A. Edison and Henry Ford.
It was 1885 when Edison decided to trade the bitter winters of New Jersey for the balmy Gulf Coast. The prolific inventor and entrepreneur promptly designed the two wooden panel buildings that make up Seminole Lodge and had them built in pre-cut sections in Fairfield, Maine. They were transported to Fort Myers in four sailing schooners and assembled there in 1886.
Spacious and serene, the Lodge features large, over-hanging porches and multiple French doors to catch the Gulf breezes. Electric chandeliers, designed by Edison and handmade of brass in his workshop, are still in working order. The automotive pioneer Henry Ford bought the property next door in 1916, and for fifteen years the two friends wintered together, experimenting in Edison’s rubber laboratory and research garden and entertaining well-known guests like industrialist Harvey Firestone and naturalist John Burroughs.
Edison’s home opened to the public in 1947, Ford’s in 1990. Through the years, millions of visitors and Florida’s rain and high humidity significantly damaged Seminole Lodge, and by 1993 both estates were suffering from major water and termite damage. Today, though, thanks in part to a partnership between the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Save America’s Treasures, and HGTV, this eighth-most-visited historic site in America is being restored as testimony to the genius of American invention.
Sites in the 2004-2005 Restore America: A Salute to Preservation campaign.
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