Edison's former Florida estate

What looks to be a vintage postcard from the Edison & Ford Estate. Caption reads "Moreton Bay Fig Tree with Henry Ford Home in the distance. Thomas A. Edison Winter Home, Fort Myers, Fla." Image credit: Fort Myers.

Architectural Digest wrote in its December 1981 issue that Edison (1847-1931) traveled to Fort Myers, Florida in 1884 seeking warm weather to aid his ailing health, and later returned with his wife (to build a home in 1886; Wikipedia). The article says Edison's wife Mina Miller enjoyed gardening while he enjoyed botany and horticulture. Unsurprisingly, Edison appears to have been most interested in plant species with potential utility and set about creating an exotic tropical botanical garden landscape that Miller would later gift to the City of Fort Myers. The estate today spans more than twenty acres, nearly one full acre dedicated to a sprawling banyan planted about 1925, and includes over 400 species from six continents and nine historic buildings. You can view Edison's rough sketch plan for this historic landscape on the Edison & Ford Winter Estates' website.

Edison's historic home. Photo credit: Kai Schreiber.

Thomas Edison, John Burroughs, and Henry Ford at Edison's home in Ft. Myers, Florida. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

He, along with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, planted an experimental plantation including bamboo (for its fibrous properties that might serve useful for making light bulb filaments; the property is said to have originally contained bamboo when he purchased it, probably an indicator of its growth potential on the site) and rubber producing trees like banyan. The three aforementioned men founded Edison Botanical Research Corporation to research a means for producing rubber domestically from trees out of concern that political instability abroad due to World War I might threaten the availability of rubber. Ford purchased the adjacent property and built his home in 1911 (Wikipedia).

What is said to be the nation's largest banyan (background). Photo credit: Walter.

Moreton Bay Fig (?) and palm landscape. Note the water in the background. Photo credit: bk1bennett.

I am guessing the banyan on the left (larger image) is the same famed banyan mentioned above given the reported planting date of around 1925, and the large image on the right is a Moreton Bay Fig that could possibly be the same as above photographed from the opposite direction. Anyone know for sure? Excerpted from Architectural Digest December 1981.

The AD article says Edison built a swimming pool for his grandchildren out of Edison Portland Cement (his company supplied the Yankee Stadium construction in the early 1920s according to Wikipedia) reinforced with bamboo poles instead of rebar.

Is this the pool AD wrote about? The caption of this photo says this pool was constructed in 1910, with the Tea and Bath House added later in 1928. Photo credit: Walter, taken 2015.

Then: what appears to be Edison's home, poolside (left). This is probably taken from a different angle, but the surrounding plantings seem denser and that looks like bamboo in the background. Excerpted from Architectural Digest December 1981.

Sounds like the property, where Ford and Edison overwintered together, was once very private, accessible only by boat for a long time.

The boat dock in 2006. Photo credit: Katherine Johnson.

Walkway to boat ramp ca. 1981 (right). The Southern slash pines (left) are apparently one of few indigenous species on the property. Does anyone know if they're still there? Excerpted from Architectural Digest December 1981.

Today, you can visit the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, which offers many different tours of the historic homes, gardens, museum, and research laboratory. Restoration of the Edison Moonlight Garden, originally designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman in 1929, garnished an Award of Merit from the American Society of Landscape Architects Florida Chapter in 2006.

Edison Moonlight Garden. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

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