Mr. Edison Takes a Holiday

At Seminole Lodge, where the inventor wintered over in Fort Myers, Florida, he kept a second lab going strong

In the winter of 1882, Thomas Edison, America's inventor extraordinaire, vacationed for the first time in northern Florida. He was only 35, but he had already succeeded in creating, among other things, the first practical incandescent lamp, an electric vote recorder, a stock ticker and a carbon transmitter that ushered in the commercial telephone and radio broadcasting. While Edison discovered that he quite enjoyed forsaking the dreary New Jersey winter for Southern sunshine, he had no intention of leaving his work behind.

A couple of years later, Edison — by now a widower with three children — found the Florida retreat of his dreams in the little hamlet of Fort Myers, up the Caloosahatchee River on the Gulf Coast. Straightaway, he ordered construction of a house and laboratory quarters. He would christen his riverside-home-laboratory enclave Seminole Lodge. Today, the estate, open year-round, draws 325,000 visitors annually.

It was to that two-story, white clapboard house that he brought his new bride, Mina Miller, for their honeymoon in 1886. Edison, his wife and six children (he and Mina had a girl and two boys) repaired to Florida on a regular basis, beginning in 1901. Seminole Lodge became not only a productive research outpost but a place where Edison entertained his friends, including Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone.

His Florida retreat became the site where, at least occasionally, the famous inventor took a break. Visitors might find him out on his dock any day, angling peacefully — and, of course, dreaming up new projects.

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