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Edison & Ford Winter Estates: The Protégé next door

When you're in Fort Myers, Thomas Edison's name is written all over town. There are stores named after him, even a bank. There's Edison Avenue. And, the main attraction in downtown Fort Myers is his Estate, open for tours seven days a week. It's the town that Edison built. He purchased this property in 1885 to build a winter retreat. It would have been near Jacksonville. But, he wanted to go as far south as he could.

Swimming pool at Edison Estate, one of the first of its kind ever built (1910)
Photo by Miguel A. Sanchez
Located in Fort Myers, Florida.
Photo by Miguel A. Sanchez

I went to see his house a couple of years ago. When I first moved down to Florida, I would hear about this place and it seemed like a folk story, to see the home of the person that invented the light bulb. I just wanted to see what I would find there. Well, there are a few historic buildings on 20 acres of land that include a museum and a laboratory where he worked. A lot of effort went into making everything appear as if Thomas Edison just stepped out and, if you stick around, you might catch him on his way back from the store or coming back for dinner.

Equipment in the laboratory is still laid out like experiments yet to become inventions. This is where he, along with Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford, would research and innovate the use of rubber. Thomas Edison had over 1,000 U.S. Patents, a pioneering workaholic. As you walk around from one building to another, you will find a botanical garden with plant life from around the world, personally collected by Thomas Edison himself. I didn't expect to see different species of Rubber trees strangely shaped by their growth and the force of gravity. Thomas Edison always had a fascination with the wonders of Nature. His inventions were a result of his drive to investigate the natural world and its power.

I was also pretty ignorant about the fact that Henry Ford was once an employee of Thomas Edison. Twenty years his junior, Henry Ford aspired to be like Thomas Edison, who made huge contributions to Technology. He would later branch off to invented the Model T. Henry Ford created the Ford Motor Company and made a lasting impact on Technological Development, as we all know. The two became good friends. Henry Ford visited Thomas Edison in Fort Myers numerous times and he eventually built a home next door.

Today, cars and our consumption of oil have arguably been a cause for global warming and its impact on the environment, altering the course of Nature. As I got in my Ford Mustang to drive away, I looked out at the Florida view and found it ironic that, the Protégé invented something that threatens Nature, what the Mentor loved the most.

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