Photo of Henry Ford inspecting his V-8 engine prototype.
To honor Henry Ford, the automobile icon, the Edison and Ford Winter Estates will celebrate his 156th birthday on Tuesday, July 30. The day will start off with a free presentation about Ford at 11:30 a.m. on the museum porch (regular admission prices apply to tours of the homes, museum and lab). Cookies and lemonade will be served.
Both guided and self-guided tours are available where visitors can learn about the inventions of both Ford and Thomas Edison and how the two men became acquainted. Site historians explain how the two inventors first met at a convention in New York in 1896. At that meeting, Ford described his first automobile, the quadricycle, and Edison encouraged him to continue with his experiments. That encouragement catapulted Ford’s career and changed the direction of the automobile industry.
Ford introduced the Model A in 1903 and the Model T, one of the best-selling cars of all time, in 1908. Several antique Ford vehicles are on site, including a 1923 Model T, 1929 Model A, 1917 Model TT and 1916 Model T, which was Edison’s personal car and a gift from Ford. Automotive tours with a demonstration of how to start an antique car are offered at 10:30 a.m. on Monday mornings.
Ford first visited Edison in Fort Myers in 1914. Two years later, he and his wife, Clara, purchased the home next store, a Craftsmanstyle bungalow, for $20,000. The home was nicknamed “The Mangoes” for the many mango trees on the property. Ford and Edison were among the first snowbirds to the area and spent many winters together along the Caloosahatchee. Their adjacent retreats provided a place for the friends to relax, discuss business and innovation, entertain friends and, of course, square dance – one of Ford’s favorite pastimes.
The City of Fort Myers purchased the Ford estate in 1988 and opened it to the public in 1990. The not-for-profit organization, Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Inc., was formed in 2006. Today, visitors can tour the 15,000-square-foot inventions museum, the National Historic Chemical Landmark research laboratory and the winter homes of both Edison and Ford – all on more than 20 acres of botanical gardens.
The site is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For tour times and admission rates, visit www.edisonford.org.
SPECIAL TIP: Through Labor Day, guests can receive one free child admission (12 or younger) with each paid adult self-guided audio tour. Children 5 and younger are always free!