Fort Myers



Ford House, Edison & Ford Winter Estates

Henry Ford is well known as the man who brought affordable cars to the US market. Edison and Ford became friends in the 1890s and In 1914 Ford stayed with Edison at Seminole Lodge. Like Edison, Ford fell in love with the area and in 1916 he purchased the property adjoining Edison’s estate, a craftsman bungalow called ‘The Mangoes’. The closeness of the two estates is demonstrated in this picture as the building just visible on the right is the Edison Guest House. Henry ford died in 1947 and ‘The Mangoes’ was sold as a private residence. In 1988 it was sold to the City of Fort Myers who restored it and opened it to the public in 1990. Click Tab 2 to see the Living Room of the Ford House or Tab 3 to see a couple of Ford’s vehicles on show, a Model A and a Model TT Truck.


Arcade Theatre, Fort Myers, FL, USA
Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, Sanibel, FL, USA
Burroughs Home, Fort Myers, FL, USA

Burroughs Home

Montana cattleman John T Murphy visited Fort Myers on business in 1899 and he liked the area so much that he stayed the entire winter. He decided that spending the winter in Fort Myers suited him, so he purchased a plot of land on the shore of the Caloosatchee River. Architect George Barber of Knoxville, Tennessee designed a Georgian Revival style house that was completed in 1901. In 1918 the house was bought by Nelson and Adeline Burroughs from Cherokee, Iowa and Chicago, Illinois. They became regular winter residents well known for their parties held in the gardens. In 1922 Nelson and Adeline gifted the house to their daughters Mona & Jettie. When Mona died in 1978 she left the house to the City of Fort Myers on condition that it was  used as a park, library or museum. The Burroughs Home is open to the public for tours and can be rented for events such as weddings. Click Tab 2 to see the Dining Room of the, Burroughs Home.

Ford House, Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Fort Myers, FL, USA
Main House of Seminole Lodge, Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Fort Myers, FL, USA



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Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, Sanibel

By the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River just 32 km (20 miles) from Fort Myers is Sanibel Island.  The risk of Indian raids kept settlers away from the island until after the Civil War. In 1884,Sanibel Lighthouse was lit and by 1892 the population was close to 100. Sanibel and the adjacent island of Captiva became popular as tranquil retreats with famous visitors who included Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. In 1963 Sanibel was connected to the mainland by a causeway. When we visited in 2104 we hoped to see the 10 preserved historic buildings in Sanibel Historical Village, but it was not open that day. Instead we went to the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum the only museum in the US dedicated to shells and the molluscs that make them. Apart from displaying a vast array of shells in different sizes and colours, the museum has many man-made items that feature shells. Click Tab 2 to see a beautiful Sailor's Shell Valentine on display in the museum. It puts the Valentine Card firmly in its place!

Main House of Seminole Lodge, Edison & Ford Winter Estates

In  1885 Thomas Alva Edison visted Fort Myers while cruising Florida’s west coast. Captivated by what he saw, Edison purchased 5 hectares (13 acres) of land on the banks of the Caloosatchee River. On the land he built a winter home and laboratory for himself and his second wife, Mina. Edison later named the house Seminole Lodge. In Fort Myers, Edison performed much of his research to find a domestic source of natural rubber. Edison died in New Jersey in 1931. His second wife Mina died in 1947 and shortly before her death she deeded Seminole Lodge to the City of Fort Myers as a ‘shrine’ to her late husband. Edison’s great friend Henry Ford built a winter home next to Seminole Lodge in 1916 and the two homes are jointly open to the public as the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Click on Tab 2 to see a picture of Edison's Study.

Arcade Theatre

The boom times in the early 20th century saw the opening of a vaudeville house in Fort Myers. Opened in 1915, it was built by brothers Harvie and Gilmer Heitman. It was the end of the vaudeville era, so in 1917 It was expanded and converted  into a movie theatre. The Arcade Theatre was rebuilt in 1938. By 1989 the theatre had closed and fallen into serious disrepair. A benefit performance in 1991 by ballet and film star Mikhail Baryishnikov raised enough money to completely restore the theatre. The restored Arcade Theatre has been the home of to the Florida Repertory Theatre since 1998.

- A lovely place, we can understand why people like Edison and Ford chose Fort Myers for their winter homes.
- The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum on Sanibel Island is a most unusual and interesting attraction.
- Nothing to report
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The Spanish did not colonise the west coast of Florida, and during British rule only a few settlers arrived in the Tampa Bay area. Significant settlement of the west coast only began in the post 1821 US era, and Fort Myers is no exception. Between 1816 and 1819 US forces under General Andrew Jackson made incursions into Spanish West Florida to fight the Seminole Indians. A second war with the Seminoles broke out in 1835 and the US built Fort Dulany at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River as a base. This fort was destroyed by a hurricane in 1841, so the US army decided to build Fort Harvie further up the Caloosahatchee River. Towards the end of the second Seminole War, the fort was abandoned but continuing settlement caused more tension with the Seminole. In 1850 the US Army returned to the Caloosahatchee River and built Fort Myers on the site of Fort Harvie. In 1855 the third Seminole War broke out leading to the removal of most of the Seminole from Florida so in 1858 Fort Myers was closed. The outbreak of the Civil War ensured that it did not stay closed for long, from 1863 to 1865 it was occupied by Union Troops. After the Civil War Fort Myers was demolished and some of the timber used by settlers to build houses. By 1885 the town of Fort Myers had grown to a population of 349 people and that year Thomas Alva Edison landed  and decided to build his home there. Many more followed causing a boom that lasted until hurricanes and the Great Depression hit in the 1920s.



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