The Edison & Ford Winter Estates recently underwent an award-winning multi-million dollar process in which multiple buildings and historic landscape gardens were preserved and restored. The process began in 2001 and the first phase was completed in 2009.
Through leadership fundraising by the Edison-Ford Winter Estates Foundation, City of Fort Myers, Lee County and an Emergency Restoration Grant from the State of Florida, the initial project funding of $8.85 million was assembled. A new governing Board of Trustees of the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Inc. was appointed and professional staff, and an impressive group of architects, consultants and restoration contractors were hired.
Other projects were undertaken simultaneously, including restoring the historic Edison seawall with a Lee County Beach and Shoreline Grant and restoring formal gardens such as Mina Edison's Moonlight Garden through the work of local and national garden clubs.
The period of interpretation was established as 1929 and a Master Site Plan was developed providing direction for the restoration as well as for site enhancement and future development. The original project grew to nearly $10 million. Work was overseen by the Florida State Preservation Officer and Florida State Architect and, as such, complied with the Secretary of Interior’s Standard for Restoration of Historic Buildings as well as the Standards for Restoration of Cultural Landscapes.
It was decided that the project would adhere to Edison's and Ford's philosophy of ingenuity, sustainability of natural resources and environmental considerations. Replica shutters for the Edison buildings were constructed following the original design and met with Miami-Dade hurricane codes; lattice building skirts that met the ground were designed and constructed as the originals and made of recycled plastic; the original Edison design copper gutter and downspout system connected to an underground drain field providing water for the gardens as Edison planned; and shell tabby pavers were selected to recreate the appearance of the historic pathways and to meet accessibility needs. Considerations of sustainability, conservation and preservation of the historic landscape and buildings are apparent throughout the site.
By 2006 the restoration of the Edison buildings neared completion and the planned transition from city management was in place. The new private corporation, the Thomas Edison & Henry Ford Winter Estates, Inc., completed its first year separate from city management with a strong operating statement and stable visitation.
Subsequently, another several million dollar project was completed to restore the Ford home including the installation of a fire suppression system. In 2010 and 2011, work has focused on the most important building on the site, the Edison Botanic Research Laboratory. The first phase includes a new roof and structural improvements and replication of the nearby botanic research activity.
During the past several years, the restoration project has received many awards and recognition for preservation, architectural management and design, building and garden restoration, and construction. With the recent completion of restoration, the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, City of Fort Myers, Edison-Ford Winter Estates Foundation, Lee County, State of Florida and hundreds of private and corporate donors all have a great deal of which to be proud. This has been achieved along with the transformation to private management, with dramatic growth of programs and education; and with the creation of a well designed and flexible plan for Master Site Development and Restoration.
In addition to the restoration achievements and program growth, the site remains one of the most visited historic homes in America and a national treasure committed to innovation, invention and preservation.
To contact the Edison & Ford Winter Estates about preservation call 239-334-7419 or email the Curatorial Department.