With apologies to Vince Lombardi, when you visit the sanctuary islands of Sanibel & Captiva, off Southwest Florida's coast (not very far "off"), please don't confine your visit to the islands. There is at least one world-class attraction off-island (but not very far "off").
It is the Edison Ford Winter Estates.
The Edison to which the title refers is Thomas Alva Edison, arguably one of the most inventive and prolific genius to inhabit the planet. Although, in a famous quote, he attributed success to 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.
Modesty aside, Thomas Edison was responsible for an incredible body of inventions and discoveries that make our lives today livable in ways that previous generations never would have imagined.
We know about his invention of the incandescent light bulb and systems to illuminate entire cities. We may even know about his invention of the phonograph, which ultimately morphed, the hands of other inventors, into other voice and sound recording systems we enjoy today.
Less known is his involvement with botany and the search for raw materials to make rubber for tires. Learning of that, it is not hard to see how Edison became close friends with auto pioneer, Henry Ford, and tire pioneer, Harvey Firestone. (They came to be known as "Uncommon Friends" and are celebrated by a sculpture in downtown Fort Myers.)
Edison had built a winter home on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River and had boasted about how benign the local climate was. Ford soon built a winter home next door. The two combined to become the Edison Ford Winter Estates, acquired by the City of Fort Myers and operated by a private non-profit company.
So... the Estates have been there for a long time. Why the suddenly resurgent interest?
As a result of Hurricane Charley, the grounds of the Estates were battered and much of Edison's beloved vegetation was either knocked down or stripped of its leaves.
Much of this was the same plants that Edison had imported from distant, exotic lands to pursue his research.
Post-Charley, major efforts went forward to revitalize and renew the grounds. Mrs. (Mina) Edison's Moonlight Garden was rebuilt and replanted. Three additional cottages were renovated and opened for public use and tours.
Just today, we learned that the Edison Ford Winter Estates were awarded the
top prize for historical preservation by the National Historic Trust. There is no way to overstate the importance of this recognition. This nationally recognized historical jewel is truly a must see. From the actual Edison and Ford homes to the cottages to the Edison lab, the museum, the botanical features and the relaxing riverine setting, you will be transported to another time in the life of an American giant.
To visit Southwest Florida and Sanibel and not visit the Edison Ford Winter Estates would be like visiting Northern Arizona and bypassing the Grand Canyon.
Don't miss it.