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A Visit to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates

January 16, 2018 by · Comments Off on A Visit to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates 

A similar article first appeared in the Florida Newsline publications on September 29, 2017 at the link below.

http://www.floridanewsline.com/creekline-st-johns/travel-edison-ford-winter-estates-worth-drive/

Edison and Ford in Florida sign.

I’ve lived in Florida since 1997, but a certain light bulb never went off in my head until recently. I’m a travel writer, yet I never visited one of Florida’s most noteworthy historical landmarks: the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers.

I revved up my motor and headed down to Fort Myers. The winter homes of the two titans of American industry sit side-by-side on 20 acres of lush botanical gardens bordering the Caloosahatchee River. The property straddles McGregor Boulevard, a street lined with tall palms. Edison planted more than 2,000 Royal Palm trees along McGregor Boulevard, offering to maintain them for two years if the city would care for them thereafter. Today, Fort Myers, “City of Palms,” boasts hundreds of the trees more than 75 feet in height.

The amazing Banyan tree.

A walk from the parking lot to the entrance winds past an amazing Banyan tree, planted by Edison around 1925. That four-foot tree now covers almost an acre of the grounds.

Thomas Alva Edison (1847 – 1931) is considered one of America’s greatest inventors. He developed many devices that became part of everyday life, such as the phonograph, a motion picture camera, and of course, the electric light bulb.

Statue of Thomas A. Edison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dubbed “The Wizard of Menlo Park,” Edison holds 1,093 US patents including a stock ticker, a mechanical vote counter, a battery for an electric car, and recorded music. He developed a system of electric-power generation and distribution allowing homes, businesses, and factories to enter the age of industrialization. Manhattan, N.Y. became the site of the Edison Illuminating Company’s first power station.

As a young man, Henry Ford worked for Edison, who encouraged the young engineer’s ideas. Ford later became the founder of the Ford Motor Company, revolutionizing transportation by making affordable cars widely available. Although Edison was 20 years his senior, the two became good friends. Ford made trips to Florida to visit his mentor, eventually buying the house next door.

Ford & Edison Houses

 

Guided tours of the property are rich in information about the two and about the research that interested both — like tires for example. The tour includes a peek inside Edison’s home, guesthouse, the Ford home, and other outbuildings. A knowledgeable guide offered memorable stories about the lives of Edison and Ford families and their friendships.

The guide explained that Edison arrived in Fort Myers in 1885 and decided to purchase the property. At the time, Fort Myers was virtually inaccessible by land. The few visitors who arrived came by boat from the Gulf of Mexico and then up the Caloosahatchee. When widower Edison married Mina in 1886, Fort Myers became their honeymoon haven and winter home.

Three decades later during WWI, Edison, Ford and another entrepreneur, Harvey Firestone, built a Botanical Research Lab. They hoped to find a cheap method to obtain rubber. As a result, Edison and his researchers established many of today’s estate plantings. (I did not take the guided tour in the laboratory, but a look inside gave the feel that it might come alive when Edison got back after the weekend.)

Early Ford auto in the museum.

The museum houses many interesting artifacts developed by Edison and Ford. Visiting auto enthusiasts will find the displays of old Ford cars satisfying. Those wishing to spend a full day at the Ford & Edison Winter Estates can stroll to the marina and board a newly built passenger vessel for a cruise on the Caloosahatchee River. The boat trip includes certified naturalists or historians from Pure Florida and the Edison Ford Estates.

Fort Myers is located in Southwest Florida.  A weekend getaway can include a night on nearby Sanibel Island or some time exploring Sarasota, St. Petersburg or Tampa along the Gulf Coast.

Cartersville, Georgia: Small Town, Big Museums

July 5, 2017 by · Comments Off on Cartersville, Georgia: Small Town, Big Museums 

Despite traveling extensively, I’m still impressed when I discover big things in small places. Cartersville, Georgia, a city of 20,000 residents about 40 minutes north of Atlanta, offers major draws. It’s the smallest town in the U.S. with two Smithsonian Affiliate Museums: one an art museum and the other a Science facility.

2001 Oil Paianting in Booth Museum

2001 Oil Paianting in Booth Museum

The Booth Western Art Museum houses the largest permanent exhibition space for Western art in the entire country- yes, the entire United States. And, what a fabulous place it is. Approach the modern 120,000-square-foot limestone and glass building and discover an outdoor sculpture garden. Larger than life statues of what kids call ‘cowboys and Indians’ populate the lawn. Inside displays of contemporary Western artwork, Civil War art, more than 200 Native American artifacts and presidential portraits and letters abound.

Cowboy statue in the sculpture garden outside the Booth Museum, Catersville, GA..

The American West Gallery spans 175 years, with poignant creations by famed artists such as Charles M. Russell, Frederic Remington, and George Caitlin as highlights. Artifacts include beaded clothing, saddle and leather art and a cowboy collection.

Indian Sculpture at Booth Western Museum

Indian Sculpture at Booth Western Museum

The Civil War Gallery displays evocative artwork that chronologically depicts battles and events from the tragic divide.

 

The Modern West Gallery focuses on Western art from the past 50 years. Contemporary pieces by Western trendsetters incorporate bronze, fiberglass, and even paper, and show the progression of stylistic changes. A pop art styled portrait of Sitting Bull by Andy Warhol may be far removed from the artist’s Pittsburgh roots, but captivates.

Andy Warhol Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull by Andy Warhol

The Millar Presidential Gallery took me by surprise – itself reason enough to visit. The gallery showcases a signed, page-long letter by each of the forty-four previous American Presidents. Meandering through the personal documents in the dimly lit space gives a sense of intimacy with the past leaders. Some visitors simply enjoy comparing the handwriting and signatures and viewing the photos.

Thomas Jefferson signed Letter

Thomas Jefferson signed Letter

Composite painting of US Presidents

Composite painting of US Presidents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adults love Sagebrush Ranch as much as the children for whom it was built. My inner child couldn’t resist the hands-on, interactive exhibits and I giggled sitting in a stagecoach bouncing along as if being pulled by horses. Children are encouraged to recreate Native American beadwork, make a Western landscape, invent designs branding, dress as settlers and mount a replica horse for photo ops.

Having fun in the Sagebrush area.

Having fun in Sagebrush Ranch.

Stagecoach in the Booth Western Art Museum.

Stagecoach in the Booth Western Art Museum.

While in Cartersville, take another day to tour the equally immense and fascinating Tellus Science Museum. Who can resist a dinosaur fossil with an oversized personality? This guy jumps out from a lobby and pulls you into an area brimming with the bones from giant mammals, reptiles, and dinosaurs, like the Tyrannosaurus Rex, saber-tooth cat, and the Megalodon shark.

Tellus Museum Dinosaur

Tellus Museum Dinosaur

One of the most appealing areas for children is the sand pit where kids, aka young paleontologists, can free fossils in various shapes and sizes. Next, they grab a pan at the Gem Panning exhibit and begin searching for hidden stones and crystals. Children may keep their discoveries as souvenirs.

 

Mineral mining contributes to the economy in this region and the Mineral Gallery in the Tellus is a real gem. The gleaming displays of gigantic geodes and polished gemstones even astonish hobbyists.

Panning in the Tellus Museum

Panning for gold in the Tellus Museum

Don’t leave before taking a visual journey through our solar system in the state-of-the-art Planetarium.

If Native American history appeals, drive to the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site. The flat-topped mounds date back to 900-1550 A.D. Climb to the top and tour the small museum to learn about this historic settlement.

 

 

The Cartersville area also includes Old Car City USA, the world’s largest known classic car junkyard covering 40 acres with miles of walking trails. Many car buffs and photographers find the forest of 4,000 forgotten cars irresistible. I honestly did not; a half hour visit was enough for me.

Old Car City USA

Old Car City USA

If you’re looking for big-city attractions in a small town atmosphere, you’ll find them in Cartersville. For more information: VisitCartersvilleGA.org.

 

 

A similar article to the above ran in the Florida Newsline publications: Consider Cartersville. 

Travel: Consider Cartersville, Georgia

 

Castle Hopping Road Trip Through Scotland

June 2, 2017 by · Comments Off on Castle Hopping Road Trip Through Scotland 

The lure and history of castles, romantic countryside and the majestic Highlands drew me to Scotland in the summer of 2016. I wrote the following road trip story for a Boomers Travel website and hope you will click and read here: http://myitchytravelfeet.com/2017/05/30/scotland-roadtrip/.

Storm at Kilchurn Castle in Scotland

Storm looms over Kilchurn Castle in Scotland.

Conquering Castles and Countryside on a Scotland Roadtrip

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