Robin Kay: This is Robin Kay here at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida, which is now home to a marvelous museum and garden. In 1885, Thomas Edison, the inventor of the incandescent light bulb purchased this property on the Caloosahatchee River to build a vacation home that would be his winter retreat.
Three decades later Edison's good friend Henry Ford purchased the home next door.
Chris Pendleton: Not everybody knows that Thomas Edison and Henry Ford actually worked together. In fact, Henry Ford worked for Thomas Edison as an engineer. He was 20 years Thomas Edison's junior. So by 1904 Henry Ford left Thomas Edison's employment and opened that Ford Motor Company. But they always stayed friends. And so Henry Ford would visit Thomas Edison here in Fort Myers and eventually he visited often enough that he bought the house next door.
Robin Kay: Edison, Ford and Harvey Firestone became concerned about the rising cost of rubber during World War I and formed the Edison Botanic Research Corporation. Edison theorized that he could improve and make more efficient the fabrication of rubber.
Chris Pendleton: The laboratory is probably the most unique feature of this property. Visitors are always amazed when they come expecting to see a fancy house and beautiful gardens and then they also find a research lab. The laboratory dates to the 1920s. Edison's hands touched this equipment. Henry Ford walked around this laboratory. Harvey Firestone visited.
Robin Kay: Edison's 13 acres botanical garden which began as an experimental garden, contains more than 1000 varieties of plants from around the world, including an African sausage tree and a 400 foot Banyan tree.
The Edison & Ford Winter Estates also invites the public to enjoy a variety of tours and an array of educational programming offered throughout the year.
Chris Pendleton: This is one of the 10 most visited home sites in America. We've just finished $14 million in restoration, so the site is dazzling. It won the National Trust Award a few years ago. The gardens won the National Garden Club Award a few years ago.
What's really neat about this place is you can experience it on all levels. We love doing demonstrations with the scientific equipment in the museum, we love doing behind the scenes tours inside the houses or in the laboratory like this. We do garden talks, so if you are interested in gardening and have tropical, it's very good when you visit here. To check out the website or give a call before you come, because you will want to see how you want to plan your day.
Robin Kay: Don't forget the Edison & Ford is open daily from 9 am to 5:30 pm. This is Robin Kay reporting from the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida.