Thomas Edison, one of the most famous inventors of all time, would have been 167 years old today.
In memory of the American genius, here’s a tour of his winter estate in Fort Meyers, Fla.
Edison purchased the property, located on the beautiful Caloosahatchee river, in 1885. The inventor’s good friend, Henry Ford, bought the land next door several decades later.
Edison and Ford enjoyed fishing, boating, and planting exotic trees and plants during their leisurely winter stays.
The Edison family continued to visit the Florida retreat, dubbed Seminole Lodge, even after Edison’s death in 1931. In 1947, Edison’s wife, Mina Edison, deeded the property to the City of Fort Myers for $US1. The Ford estate was acquired in 1988.
The property is now open for public tours, featuring Edison’s botanical gardens, rubber laboratory, and a historical museum.
A pier overlooking Caloosahatchee river was constructed soon after Edison bought the property in 1885.
The landscape served as a living laboratory as well. Edison, Ford, and Harvey Firestone were obsessed with finding a cheap alternative to rubber. The trio planted thousands of exotic trees and plants in search of a quick-growing, domestic source of natural rubber.
In 1925, Firestone gave Edison a 4-foot banyan tree, which produces a white milky sap that can be used to create rubber. The tree did not turn out to be the best producer of rubber, but continued to grow and is now around an acre in diameter.
Broad-leaf banana trees planted around the pool provided shade and blocked people from looking in from the river.
An aquatic pond collected water run-off from the pool. The pond is flanked by Mrs. Edison's favourite plants, including water lilies, iris, and papyrus.
The original Ford furnishings are believed to have been sold at auction in the 1940s. The items on display reflect the styles of Henry Ford and his wife, Clara.
Ford was so distraught by Edison's death in 1931 that he sold the house in 1945 and it was eventually purchased by the city of Fort Meyers in 1988.
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