Legendary Residents & Residences - Henry Ford & Thomas Edison Were Among Florida’s First Snowbirds
After spending warm winters in the young metropolis of Fort Myers beginning in the late 1800s, world famous visionary Thomas Edison predicted the town would become a major tourist destination eventually attracting millions of people. At that time, such an idea may have seemed inconceivable, however, this was the man who invented the light bulb so, of course, the prediction came true not just for Fort Myers but the entire Southwest Coast region that includes Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel and Captiva islands.
Not surprisingly, two of the most visited sites that serve as a window to the region’s past are the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Winter Estates. Ford, the world famous car manufacturer and Edison the prolific inventor who held more than 1,000 U.S. patents, were good friends who once owned side-by-side winter homes on the waterfront at Fort Myers. Both properties are now museums and hundreds of thousands of people a year tour the homes as well as Edison’s on-property laboratory.
Famous notables who were frequent guests at the Edison Estate included President Teddy Roosevelt, Charles and Anne Lindbergh, Harvey Firestone and, of course, Henry Ford in 1915. Like Edison, Ford fell in love with the location and subsequently built a winter home on the property next door to his friend. Tour guides reveal that following Edison’s death the Fords never returned to their winter home which, along with the bulk of its contents, was sold at auction in 1945. The house now features mostly period furnishings, and the garage contains a 1914 Model T Ford, the world’s first mass-produced vehicle and the cornerstone of the auto maker’s fortunes, among other vintage automobiles. The lives of both Ford and Edison are extensively outlined in a museum on the Edison Estate.