My visit to the Edison Ford Winter Estates was a last minute decision designed to fill time while visiting my in-laws in Florida. Since I hadn’t done any research in advance, all I expected to see was a few historical homes, and maybe an antique car or two.
It turns out, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison bought these neighboring homes on the Caloosahatchee River in the late 1920s to work with Henry Firestone on a very specific project. They were concerned with the Unites States’ dependence on foreign rubber, and were determined to find a plant that could be cultivated in the US, allowing for the production of domestic rubber. They constructed a laboratory on the land shared by Edison and Ford, and brought in plants from all over the world to test. Eventually they discovered a plant, goldenrod, that would work.
Today the homes on the estate are preserved, along with the laboratory and 21 acre botanical garden created from all of the plants that were tested during the project. There is also a museum on the site that does a great job of putting Edison and Ford’s accomplishments into context along other historical events.