Edison / Ford Estates
By the mid- 1880’s, Thomas Edison was a prolific inventor, and frankly, was doing very well for himself. He came to Fort Myers, Florida, not only for relaxation but for a tropical location for his research. He was an avid botanist, and was seeking (among many other things) to find plants that could be a source for rubber. He tested over 17,000 plants, and finally settled on Goldenrod. Who would have guessed it?
Anyway, he purchased some riverfront property, and built it into a beautiful estate. The only existing structure was enlarged to become the caretaker’s house and garages. He built a pier extending almost a quarter mile into the river to a spot deep enough for ships bringing building supplies. A beautiful two story home was built, a large lab building, and even a pool and pool house. Not surprisingly, the estate had electric power, supplied by his own generators. He was hoping to electrify all of Fort Myers, but that didn’t happen for another decade.
Here is the caretaker’s house and the garages:
The remains of the pier; used first for supplies, then sports boating:
The main house:
The “Midnight Garden”, originally featuring flowers that looked best at night:
Even some original wicker furniture from Edison’s time:
Henry Ford was one of Edison’s employees as a young man. Later on they became strong friends, and Ford often visited Edison in his Florida estate. The owner of the house closest to Edison’s property decided to sell, and he knew Henry Ford was a friend and frequent visitor of Edison. He told Ford he’d really like to sell only to him, so the friends could be close. Ford bought not only the house, but all the furnishings, ready to move in. Edison would spend a few months a year in his southern estate, but Ford usually only came down a couple of weeks, mostly around Edison’s birthday.
Ford’s estate had been named “The Mangoes” for the huge number of very fruitful mango trees, but there were plenty of oranges and other “exotic” fruit trees. The properties have beautiful views of the river, and plenty of Palm Trees and flowers. An astounding variety of orchids grace the property.
Ford tried a few times to start automobile companies before he got it right… he left one of them, the Henry Ford Company, after only three months, because he didn’t like where the company was headed. After he left, it was restructured, and renamed “Cadillac”. The first Cadillac was a 10 hp car, pretty much a Henry Ford design.
Edison’s large lab has been moved to Ford’s Museum of American Innovation, but a “smaller” lab is still here:
The museum is fabulous. Thomas Edison was going deaf as he grew older, but still insisted on listening to and approving all music to be recorded and sold on his phonographs. He found if he could bite the wooden frame holding the phonograph, he could hear the music. It made me think of my favorite deaf jazz singer! (Love you Mandy!)
Of course the Model T is what made Henry Ford famous: he literally changed the world with this car! This particular car was a gift from Ford to Edison.
Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone liked to go camping and explore the Everglades. They built a “Motorhome” on a Ford Model T. It had a tank for water, and a few drawers for supplies, and when the drawers were removed there might have been a bit of space inside! Notice the stove and picnic basket beside the motorhome:
Speaking of motorhomes… that brings me to:
Our Next Chapter…
We have sold our beautiful boat, GRACE. We had an awesome time living on the water, but it was causing the dollars to flee my retirement account too rapidly. We decided it was time to change the adventure a bit… So our next nomadic home has wheels! We have now moved aboard a big ole’ motorhome. Quite different from Henry’s Model T.
Last week I talked about Frank Lloyd Wright’s design principles for his Usonian Houses. Our motorhome mimics these concepts in some ways:
He loved long horizontal lines. The motorhome is very linear, and all the air conditioners and antennae are hidden from view so the lines remain clean. The entryway is rather tight, making you slightly uncomfortable and compelling you to go farther in. When you round the corner and see the living area, it is much wider and far more open, almost making you say “Wow!” This is where you are supposed to relax and feel like staying. This is both the living and dining areas, with the kitchen right opposite. The kitchen area is small, but at least the cook is close to others in the living area. The home has most of the furniture built in, so there’s little room for rearranging it! There is lots of indirect lighting, and the attempt is to let the nature outside be the focus. The bedroom is smallish (but still has room for a King Sized bed). Does that sound like my description of Wright’s design? Yes, because I almost copied it from last week’s blog!
Ok, our new home differs significantly from a Usonian House, starting with the fact that it has wheels! It has a large diesel engine to push it around, so the view always changes. We actually have a bath and a half, which is more than Wright put in the Florida house. It drives beautifully, and gets pretty good mileage for a house!
So the months of research into portable housing has finally culminated in a 2017 Newmar Dutch Star. Maybe I’ll put up a page about it like I did about Grace, in case folks have questions. Like the boat, it sometimes feels VERY LARGE, like when you back into a tight spot… and sometimes it feels SO SMALL, when you try to fit everything you own inside!
We get Library Cards!
When our dear friend Giny asked how nomads get library cards, we replied that we still had our cards from Colorado, and would use them till they found out we don’t live there anymore. But we got to thinking… what if they did find out (don’t tell!) – we could have our library cards revoked! So we stopped by the library in Green Cove Springs, where our mailing address is, and got shiny new Floridian library cards! Of course we can only use them for eBooks and Audiobooks, but that is a great asset. We also got to pose as Astronaut and Space Alien, and had the librarian take our picture. What a day!
Chasing the Next Horizon
From now on, we will be searching for our next horizon on land… we hope you will follow us there!