Thomas Edison brought his family to this Victorian retreat -- they called it Seminole Lodge -- in 1886 and wintered here until his death, in 1931. Mrs. Edison gave the 14-acre estate to the city of Fort Myers in 1947, and today it's Southwest Florida's top historic attraction. It looks exactly as it did during Edison's lifetime. Costumed actors portraying the Edisons, the Fords, and their friends, such as Harvey S. Firestone, give living-history accounts of how the wealthy lived in those days.
Edison experimented with the exotic foliage he planted in the lush tropical gardens surrounding the mansion (he turned goldenrod into rubber and used bamboo for light bulb filaments). Some of his light bulbs dating from the 1920s still burn in the laboratory where he and his staff worked on some of his 1,093 inventions. The monstrous banyan tree that shades the laboratory was 4 feet tall when Firestone presented it to Edison in 1925; today, it's the largest specimen in Florida. A museum displays some of Edison's inventions as well as his unique Model-T Ford, a gift from friend Henry Ford.
In 1916, Ford and his wife, Clara, built Mangoes, the bungalow-style house next door, so they could winter with the Edisons. Like Seminole Lodge, Mangoes is furnished as it appeared in the 1920s.