A Look Inside the Edison and Ford Winter Estates

Last Updated on March 3, 2022

To escape the brutally cold northern winters, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford had winter homes in Fort Myers, Florida. These winter visitors had homes right next to each other, on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River. Today this area is known as Edison and Ford Winter Estates. And you can visit these historic homes, the museum, and the laboratory on-site.

I did not know about these homes until recently when I watched Samantha Brown’s Places to Love. I love anything that has to do with Samantha Brown. If you haven’t seen her TV show Places to Love, I strongly recommend it. She did a short feature on the Edison and Ford Winter Estates down in Fort Myers, and I was captivated by Thomas Edison’s laboratory.

Lucky for us, we made an impromptu side trip down to Fort Myers from Anna Maria Island, and I was able to see the laboratory for myself. We only got to visit for the afternoon, but we saw most of the property.

Some people don’t like Thomas Edison, and I can understand why. Still, the history education person inside screams at me to visit these places, and I love historic homes. Plus, I wanted to learn more about the two men who helped to contribute to modern-day America.

Below is a short guide for your visit to the Edison and Ford Winer Estates in Fort Myers, including visiting tips and what you will see.

Edison's winter estate known as Seminole Lodge.
Thomas Edison’s Seminole Lodge consisted of the main house and guest house. Shot on Portra 400.


Address and Parking

The Edison and Ford Winter Estates is located at 2350 McGregor Blvd. Fort Myers, Florida 33901. We plugged this address into our GPS, and it took us right to the parking lot.

Parking is free when you get there. You will see signs indicating where to park. We arrived mid-afternoon and had no trouble finding a parking spot.

The Edison and Ford Winter Estates ticket office and gift shop.
The museum entrance is where you can buy tickets and visit the gift store. Shot on Portra 400.

Hours and Tour Information

The museum and historic homes are open daily from 9 am to 5:30 pm, with the last ticket sold at 4:30 pm. You can view the tour prices here, but we did the guided tour, which is $30 per adult.

The guided tour is 60 minutes, and a historian takes you to the historic homes and through the gardens. I recommend this tour if you have a limited amount of time to visit. They pack a lot of history about the estates and gardens into the 60-minute timeframe.

There are also self-guided tours which cost less than guided tours. The guided and self-guided tours include your visit to the museum, the laboratory, and the estates and gardens.

If you do the self-guided tour, you can download the Edison Ford App for an audio tour of the estates and gardens. It is convenient, and it is free! I love when museums have this option available.

You cannot go into the historic homes unless you have the Inside the Homes Tours. But this is only offered on Tuesday and Thursdays at 10 am. We missed this tour, but we were still able to see certain rooms in the homes. They have it closed off where you cannot enter, but you can still view the room.

An interior room of Thomas Edison's winter house in Fort Myers.
A look inside Thomas Edison’s main house. This is the library. Shot on Portra 400.

Other Visiting Tips

I would plan at least half a day to visit the entire place. We were there for about three hours and still didn’t see everything!

However, as a disclaimer, I read a lot, including all the captions that you see under every exhibit or artifact in a museum. If you don’t do this, it might take you a little less time to visit the Edison and Ford Winter Estates.

We visited in June, and it was so hot and humid. It felt like I was back in Cancun, Mexico – one of the hottest places I’ve visited so far. I try to push through it, but when it is that hot, it is hard to concentrate! You will melt if you come here in the summer.

On the banks of Caloosahatchee River.
In the gardens at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Digital.


The entire property consists of the museum, Edison’s and Ford’s estates, the gardens, and Thomas Edison’s laboratory. Read below to discover a little bit more about each one:

The Museum

I love the museum because it has air conditioning! Okay, that is a huge plus, but I like it for more reasons than just the air conditioning.

The museum is packed with TONS of history (yes!) along with Thomas Edison’s innovations and Ford’s automobiles. The permanent galleries include:

  • Orientation Gallery
  • Timeline of Innovation
  • Into the Wild
  • Music and Movies
  • Edison and Rubber
  • DC vs. AC (Electrifying America)
  • A section devoted to Edison’s and Ford’s family and friends

As much as I loved learning about Edison’s inventions, my favorite gallery out of those listed above was Into the Wild. This gallery highlights Edison and Ford’s unique friendship and their lavish excursions into the Florida Everglades.

A museum display of Thomas Edison's kinetoscopes.
A look inside the museum. Edison played a role in shaping the movie film industry. Shot on Portra 400.

A Close Friendship

Thomas Edison and Henry Ford had a close friendship, probably one of the reasons their homes are right next to each other. I like my friends, of course, but not sure if I would live right next to them (sorry all!).

They would often go on camping trips to Cypress and the Everglades. Eventually, these ‘camping trips’ turned into elaborate journeys, not your typical camping trips where you pack a tent, light gear, and a cooler with beer.

No, these ‘camping’ trips were more similar to modern-day glamping but with so much more in tow. At one point, they had 80 staff members accompany them on their camping trip, including chefs and secretaries! They even packed a piano to sing and play music for President Harding, who joined them.

Can you imagine going on a camping trip this large into the Florida Everglades?

Disappointingly, they didn’t allow their wives and children to accompany them at first either because they were afraid that they would somehow ruin their fun (insert eye roll). The invitation was later extended to them, and the camping trips became quite a family outing.

After nine of these trips, they called it quits as the trips became too publicized, and Edison started to focus more on his work with rubber in his laboratory. Bummer.

Thomas Edison had over 1000 Patents!

Two large light bulbs.
50,000 and 75,000 Watt Light Bulbs! Digital.

Thomas Edison had so many patents. I only know a small fraction of them other than the obvious ones, such as the electric lamp (light bulb).

You will see some of the other patents and inventions that Thomas Edison produced in the Music and Movies gallery of the museum.

Do you know that Thomas Edison influenced the movie film industry? In fact, the first movie studio was established by Edison in 1893. Called the ‘Black Maria,’ it was located not in California but West Orange, New Jersey. You can see a small-scale model of it at the museum.

Edison had nine patents in the movie film industry, including a movie projector and the kinetoscope. You might remember seeing one of those flipbooks that have a drawing on each page. When you flip through the book quickly, the images act like they are in motion. The flipbooks act like a kinetoscope.

Edison had a projecting kinetoscope that displayed images onto a wall. Similar to a modern-day motion picture, the kinetoscope consisted of multiple images captured within a short time frame – giving the appearance of the subjects in motion, similar to our flipbooks.

Edison also produced a home kinetoscope in 1913, so people could enjoy a short movie in the comfort of their homes. You could pick out which film you wanted to see from a film catalog. Sounds somewhat familiar?

A kinetoscope.
One of Edison’s kinetoscopes. Digital.

Right next to the kinetoscopes in the museum, you’ll see Edison’s phonographs. If you have a record player, you have a phonograph. Not only could the phonograph play music, but it could also record sound and play it back.

I think a unique phonograph on display at the museum is Edison’s Talking Doll. The doll spoke prerecorded nursery rhymes. It also had real human hair on top of its head. These were not popular. I wonder why…

And don’t miss the phonograph with the biting marks. Edison had substantial hearing loss in his later years, and the only way to listen to the sound was to bite down and feel the vibrations! That is pretty remarkable if you ask me!

See Henry Ford’s 1914 Model T

The Orientation Gallery is the first gallery of the museum that you step into after purchasing your tickets. You will see four classic cars, including Henry Ford’s 1914 Model T. And it’s a beauty.

Ford’s assembly line cut down production time, making the cars affordable to more people. The Model T was one of these economical cars, costing only around $550 (a little over $14,000 today). In 1914, most cars were painted black. I am guessing people confused their cars with others frequently.

And you will also see Henry Ford’s 1916 Model T in this gallery. This car was given as a birthday gift to Thomas Edison. A pretty nice birthday gift!

Thomas Edison’s Botanical Laboratory

Don’t miss the laboratory at your visit to the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. It is located right outside the museum. You will see signs in the museum indicating the direction.

The laboratory was my favorite thing to see on the entire property. It’s like stepping back into Edison’s time to see how the lab operated! And the awesome thing is that most of the items in there are original.

Machinery and equipment in Thomas Edison's Laboratory.
Inside Edison’s Botanical Laboratory. Shot on Portra 400.

Established in 1928 by Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone (Firestone tires), the lab served as a research and testing center to grow rubber in the United States.

All three were concerned about how much rubber the United States purchased from foreign countries. Edison was definitely not one to quit, and after years of testing, he finally succeeded by crossbreeding the goldenrod plant to produce rubber at a quicker pace.

Another surprising feature about the lab is that it has a darkroom! Similar to what you find in a dark room today, their research process was documented by pictures to help keep thorough notes. The research lab seems pretty self-sufficient.

A lot of those photos developed in the darkroom are now on display in the museum.

The dark room in Edison's laboratory.
The darkroom in the lab. Digital.
Edison's Laboratory Office
The laboratory office where most of the correspondence occurred. Shot on Portra 400.

Edison’s and Ford’s Winter Estates

You’ll have to cross the street to visit Ford’s and Edison’s Winter Estates.  Don’t worry; there is a crosswalk but be careful.  Luckily, the walk from the museum to the estates is not too far.  If it were far, I probably would have said no way due to the summer heat.

The estates sit right next to the Caloosahatchee River.  You’ll see a beautiful pathway lined with royal palms.  Edison’s main house and guest house are situated along this pathway. If you continue down, you will see Henry Ford’s home.

Royal palm trees line the pathway to Edison's and Ford's Winter Homes.
Royal palms line the pathway to the homes. Shot on Portra 400.

There is also Edison’s caretaker house, a swimming pool, Edison’s study, and the caretaker cottage for Ford.  You won’t have to walk too far to see all of this as they are all near each other. 

Two ducks looking at rubber duck in Thomas Edison's swimming pool.
Ducks sitting at Edison’s swimming pool. Shot on Portra 400.

The houses are not what I imagined.  I suppose I’m used to the lavish Châteauesque (think Biltmore House in North Carolina) or Victorian-style architecture popular during this timeframe. 

Thomas Edison's winter estate in Fort Myers, Florida.
Thomas Edison’s main house. Shot on Portra 400.

Instead, the exterior of Edison’s and Ford’s homes is relatively modern.  Edison’s main home and guest home has a South Florida vibe to it – very open with a large porch.  Henry Ford’s estate is craftsman style – very cozy and inviting.

You can peer inside certain rooms in the homes, but you cannot walk inside unless you do the Inside the Homes Tour, as mentioned previously.  Regardless, I felt like I saw a good portion of property and gardens even though I could not go inside the homes. 

Henry Ford's winter estate called the Mangoes.
Henry Ford’s winter estate, “The Mangoes.” Shot on Portra 400.

Seminole Lodge

Edison’s winter home is known as the Seminole Lodge.  The main house was completed in 1886, just in time to return to Florida with Mina, whom Edison married that same year. Today, you can see the family’s bedrooms, the den, a library, and a study.

Edison acquired the guest house in 1906.  It has a kitchen, dining room, a sitting room, guest bedrooms, and rooms for the staff.  President Hoover was one of the famous guests that stayed here.

I love that most of the furniture is original – even the wicker furniture on the porch once belonged to the Edison family.  The furniture is well-preserved, and most of it looks modern. 

The dining room at Seminole Lodge.
The dining room. Digital.
Edison and Mina's bedroom.
Edison and Mina’s bedroom. Digital.
Edison's study.
A look inside Edison’s study. Digital.

The Mangoes

If you walk a little further down from Seminole Lodge but not too far, you’ll reach the Mangoes – Henry Ford’s winter home.  The name of the house fits the area.  If you look up at some of the trees in the surrounding area, you’ll notice some mangoes.

Henry Ford and his family purchased this home right next to Edison in 1916.  The funny thing is that you might expect Henry Ford to have an oversized garage for his cars.  But no – the garage was quite small. Today you can buy ice cream in it. 

Henry Ford's living room.
The Ford Family living room. Digital.

The Gardens

The Edison and Ford Winter Estates has 20 acres of beautiful gardens, where you can stroll through different varieties of plants. We saw bamboo, tropical fruit trees, cycads, and so many palm trees.  There are unique plants – you might be surprised to discover something you have never seen before.   

Bamboo in the gardens at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers.

The most stunning tree is the gigantic banyan tree located near the entrance to the museum and the parking lot.  You can’t miss it.   

If you want a further breakdown of what is in bloom each month, you can visit their website. You can even purchase a plant on-site in their garden center near the museum and gift shop entrance. I was very tempted to buy a gorgeous tropical plant, but I was unsure about taking it in the car for the road trip home!

The garden shop at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates.
The Garden Shop outside the museum. Digital.


This post contains a mixture of film and digital images. For film, I used Portra 400 in my Canon E0S-1N.  I also had my Instax Square SQ1 to take a few instant shots of the homes.  I find Instax Square to be best at taking pictures of landscapes and architecture. 

In retrospect, I wish I took more pictures with film during our visit.  I had to put away my film camera for some time since it started to rain while we were touring the estates. The rain didn’t stop me from getting digital images, though. 

I am slightly surprised the film images came out decent inside Edison’s Botanical Laboratory.  There is low light in the lab, and a tall barrier prevents you from walking inside. You can view the lab; you just can’t walk between the tables and machinery. 

The top of the barrier in the lab was in level with my head. I had to stand on my tiptoes to get the shots that I took.  My camera was on the smallest aperture value to get enough shutter speed to take the images. Still blurry in some areas of the images, but I like how they look. And they are now my favorites from the set!

Have you been to the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers? If so, what did you think? Please comment below and share if you like this post!

Instax Square SQ1

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