Thomas Edison was many things. Indecisive was not one of them. The day after arriving in Fort Myers for a look about town, he decided that he wanted to build a winter home here.
“Edison stopped in at the office of Huelsenkamp & Cranford the next day and asked if any desirable nearby riverfront tracts were for sale,” writes historian Karl Grismer in his book, The Story of Fort Myers. “C.J. Huelsenkamp, senior partner of the firm and rabid Fort Myers booster, thereupon proceeded to make one of the most important sales in the history of South Florida.”
Huelsenkamp showed Edison a 13-acre parcel a mile downstream that Samuel Summerlin had purchased from Francisco Abril a few years before for $500. He told Edison he thought he could persuade Summerlin to part with the tract. Edison told him on the spot that he would buy the property if the price was right. And later that year, the beautiful riverfront location would become the site of Edison’s winter estate, which would not only include homes for Edison and his business partner E.T. Gilliland, but a laboratory in which he would conduct important botanical research after the turn of the century.
The land today is part of the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, which is open to the public daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Located at 2350 McGregor Boulevard, the Estates offer docent-guided tours of the lab, homes and gardens, where you can hear more stories about the famous inventor, Henry Ford and the work Edison conducted in Fort Myers. For more information, please telephone 239-334-7419 or vist www.edisonfordwinterestates.org.