Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), the gateway to the golf courses and beaches of Lee County, is located on the eastern shore of the Calossahatchee River on the southwest coast of Florida. The county seat, Fort Myers Florida, is roughly a 30-minute drive north. Opened in May 1983, the airport served more than 8 million passengers in 2014. In addition to operating flights to Canada and Europe (via Germany), RSW services numerous domestic hubs that offer international connections.
Among the attractions at Fort Myers are the winter vacation homes of Thomas Edison (Seminole Lodge) and Henry Ford (The Mangoes). The two estates are adjacent to one another on the shores of the Caloosahatchee. Together, they contain 21 acres of botanical gardens and a history museum. Families also like to visit are a hands-on museum and aquarium and various parks and sports arenas.
While Thomas Edison is credited with inventing the light bulb, which inspired generations and generations of silly jokes and changed the course of history. His actual contribution was to develop an economical and safe system for distributing light and power. He was a compulsive inventor, and held more than one thousand patents in his lifetime.
In 1885, Edison and friend, Ezra Gilliland visited a small village in Fort Myers. They were entranced by the tranquillity and its obvious effects on the local citizens. They eventually purchased a plot of land together, where Edison ultimately made his vacation home during the winter months.
Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 to April 7, 1947) was born under the sign of Leo in Wayne County near Dearborn, Michigan. In his lifetime, he founded the Ford Motor company and provided financial backing for the development of the assembly line technique for mass production of vehicles. Like his neighbor, Thomas Edison, Ford indelibly changed the course of history.
The two awe-inspiring men met early in the 20th century. They took their families on joint camping trips and eventually settled as next-door neighbors. Ford was a lover of entertaining, dancing, fishing and seeing the sights. When his friend passed away in 1931, Ford stopped going to the Mangoes and eventually sold it.
The Mangoes was built in 1911 in the style of a craftsman’s bungalow by a New York architect named Robert Smith. It was opened to the public in the closing decade of the 20th century and remains so to this day.
Annual events include the Edison Festival of Light, including a Coronation Ball, a memorial service, a parade and a band concert. By 1988, the festival had grown to two full weeks. Later, its organization was turned over to a non-profit organization. Visitors to Fort Myers can expect a tropical savannah climate, with warm, short winters and humid, hot summers, often punctuated by thunderstorms.
It is inspiring to think of these two geniuses, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, as being normal family men doing normal family things, like camping and fishing. Although the sandy beaches are a huge temptation, try to get away and get a glimpse into their lives.