Tag Archives: Thomas Edison

Edison/Ford Winter Estates

Thomas Edison and Henry Ford are two of the most influential people of the last couple of centuries.  They became close friends later in life, often deferring to each other for ideas in their respective areas of expertise.  Nowhere is their friendship more evident than at the Edison/Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida.  We visited these grounds using the American Horticultural Society’s reciprocity program, which is included with our Meijer Gardens membership back in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Admission is normally $25 each, so gaining access to the estate for free was a nice bonus.  We opted for the guided tour, which was an additional $5 each.


Mr. Edison purchased this land along the Caloosahatchee River in 1885.  He and his wife Mina had this home, which they named Seminole Lodge, built the following year. He was 39 years old at the time.  To put things in perspective, Henry Ford was 23 years old in 1886 and 10 years away from building his first automobile.  There wasn’t much happening around Fort Myers at that point in history. The town of 349 people was simultaneously being incorporated, the road in front of the estate was a cattle path and the railroad was 12 years away from finding its way to the area. 


In 1916, Henry and Clara Ford purchased this Craftsman style home next door to the Edison estate.  It had been built 5 years earlier by Robert Smith.  Over time, Mina and Clara transformed the grounds of their estates into a combined horticultural oasis. The variety of species is remarkable, and everything is labeled…to our delight!  🙂

After World War I, Thomas Edison began to explore alternatives to the imported raw materials for rubber.  He was concerned about the United States’ dependency on foreign suppliers.  He built a laboratory on the grounds across the street from his estate, and he partnered with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone to come up with a solution.


This is a single banyan tree that Mr. Edison planted in the late 1920’s. It has since grown into this giant, covering well over an acre. Edison was hoping that the tree would be a source of rubber, a hope that didn’t pan out. He also tried a multitude of other source including goldenrod.  Eventually, synthetic, petroleum-based rubber became the choice of domestic manufacturers.


The interior of the lab is very well organized.  Flasks, test tubes and beakers on one side, and a machine shop on the other.  It was interesting to think back to my visits to Edison’s Menlo Park lab at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan and see the similarities.

Next door to the lab is a small museum.  A couple of interesting pieces caught my eye.


This was a phonograph that Edison had one of his workers build a wooden frame around.  The inventor was totally deaf in one ear and 90% deaf in the other. To ‘hear’ the record, he had to bite the frame to feel the sound through his jaw.

Another was this Barcalo offset box end wrench.  I own one of these in a 3/4″ – 13/16″ combination.  It was passed down to me from my paternal grandfather, and it is probably one of the most useful wrenches in my collection.  In essence, the card in the display case needs updating, as some Ford owners still do use this wrench on their Fords!

Back over at the Edison estate, we were able to look inside through the open doors and windows at some of the rooms.


Mr. Edison sat at the head of this table, using this chime to call everyone to dinner.  The seat has a commanding view of the Caloosahatchee.

A pergola seperates the main house from the sleeping quarters.  Edison seperated the two for fire reasons, as kitchens were a source of most home fires.  He also installed a fire suppression system.

Here is Thomas and Mina’s bedroom.

The main house has this beautiful wrap-around porch.

Next to the house is his study.  Mina had a small garden off this building, so she could be near Thomas while he worked.

Between the river and his study, he had this pool built.  The high dive was supposedly built after Fort Myers took ownership of the property and is not historically correct.

Over at the Ford estate, the home had more of a ‘cottage’ feel to it.

This fireplace commands the one end of the living room.

The home featured a cypress ceiling, which lent a certain coziness to it.

I’m sure Hank used this a few times!   🙂

Out back, there is a display with three Ford vehicles:  a Model T, a Model A, and a 1917 Model TT truck.

Near the river, this large Brown Wolly Fig shades the lawn.  The root system on it was very unique.

Here I am with a statue of Henry Ford.  I grew up 3 miles from Ford headquarters and the Rouge plant, so my childhood was heavily influenced by what this man had accomplished in the first half of the 20th century.  By mass-producing affordable cars and paying high wages, he essentially created the middle class.  He was far from perfect. We watched an hour long biography of him in the museum that was truly fascinating. 

We spent 7 hours at the Edison-Ford Winter Estates.  Most people wouldn’t take that long, but we were soaking it all in. After the hour long historian led tour, we wandered the grounds and explored buildings that weren’t included in the tour. We also enjoyed lunch with a view of the river at Pinchers, which we were able to walk to from the property. The estates are definitely worth the visit, if you happen to be in Fort Myers.  We thoroughly enjoyed it!
Henry Ford: A Biography is available here for your Kindle through exploRVistas and Amazon for $2.99…or free to Kindle Unlmited members.

It’s Not The (Lack Of) Heat…It’s The Humidity!

“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”
Thomas Edison

In that case, Mr. Edison would probably find our RV to be pretty smart!

We are well on our way through our first snow event. While we have not experienced what Buffalo, NY has had to deal with, we did manage to pick up a foot of snow as of this morning. The single day record snowfall for November 18 in Grand Rapids was 2.9 inches. We shattered that record. Mid-day yesterday, our trusty Stanley revealed the following:


Grand Rapids picked up more snow in a 24 hour period than it did at any point during last season’s record setting winter. We are up to 23.4 inches of snow for November, which is the fourth highest snowfall total on record. The last 7 day’s temperatures have been 15 degrees below average. And thanks to Lake Michigan, we have only had 7% of possible sunshine.

As stated before, we have been concerned about moisture buildup inside the rig. Propane heat naturally gives off water as a byproduct, as does breathing, showering, cooking and excess snow coming in from outside on our boots after shoveling. The result becomes apparent in two places: the corners of the RV and the aluminum window frames.


We have found that drying the window frames off with paper towels in the morning and evening helps a lot. The day/night shades trap a lot of moisture during the night, and a quick wipe with a piece of Bounty eliminates that. Once the shades are open in the morning, the air movement from our ceiling fan keeps them fairly dry, though not 100% moisture free. The daily maintenance prevents mildew and water running down the walls. The corners of the RV have also been places that dampness builds up, especially inside cabinets. This doesn’t seem to be as bad as the windows, but it still does require daily attention. We are keeping those cabinet doors open and doing our best to point fans at the problem areas. The Eva Dry 500 dehumidifiers we put in the cabinets seem to be helping with that. We also just purchased an Eva Dry 2200 dehumidifier for the bedroom area to compliment the Eva Dry 1100 we have in the living room, so we will see how that helps the overall picture. One other thing that is working well is the fact we are taking our showers at the YMCA every day. That not only cuts down on the humidity, but also eliminates the need to run the power vent, thereby keeping the heat inside. Working out at the Y also keeps us in shape, both physically and mentally. In addition, we are able to run two electric space heaters on ‘low’, which not only provides dry heat, but it cuts down on the propane bill. We are filling a 30 pound propane tank every 3 to 4 days at $25 a refill, and our electric bill looks like it will be around $160 for November. Keep in mind that we also kicked on the heater inside the skirted area below the rig. We have it set at 45 degrees, and our floors are staying comfortable as a result. Our estimate is that heating that area is costing us $40 a month. The skirting itself would definitely keep that area above freezing, but the floors would be cold, especially in our slide outs. We feel our comfort is worth the extra money.

Following are several photos of our campsite to this point. Not a lot of snow, but it is only mid November!


This was taken out of our window in the middle of a lake effect snow band. At that point, the snow was coming down pretty hard.


The campground has a good sized Kubota to keep the streets plowed. Keeping our campsite itself cleaned is our responsibility.


The area we are keeping open is plenty wide, as we know that the snow banks will creep inward as the winter wears on. Knock on wood, the campsites on either side of us are not occupied. Hopefully they remain that way.


We put partially inflated beach balls under the slide toppers. This keeps them up and will keep the excess snow and ice from pooling in them.


Our Awning Airwedge is also helping, although not as much as the beach balls.


We are getting a fair amount of icicles, meaning that the heat from inside the trailer is melting the snow on the roof. We think that we might need to brush off some of the excess snow today, in hopes of minimizing the runoff. We will attempt that with our 8 foot step ladder and a snow brush, as walking on an icy roof is not a good idea,


Our bedroom slide sarcophagus seems to be holding up well, although it wouldn’t hurt to have the snow removed from the top of it also.


Campfire anyone? 🙂

All in all, this has been a positive experience for us. While the windows…even though they are double pane…have been a daily maintenance issue, we are extremely thankful our rig has so many of them. Being able to look outside prevents winter claustrophobia. The view out of our windows is beautiful. Ok, so it isn’t the Tetons or the beach at Grand Haven, but it is pretty neat nonetheless. Our winter preparations seem to have paid off, even though we were going on other’s recommendations and our own trial and error.

Which brings us to another one of Mr. Edison’s quotes:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.

Fortunately for us, most of our efforts are working!


Search Amazon.com here

Amazon, the Amazon logo, AmazonSupply, and the AmazonSupply logo are trademarks of Amazon. com, Inc. or its affiliates. exploRVistas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon. com.