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Edison & Ford Winter Estates Blog

Edison & Ford Winter Estates Blog

Archive for September, 2009

Edison & Ford Holiday Nights: December 11, 2009 – January 2, 2010

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 30th

With a theme of “Favorite Things,” Edison & Ford Holiday Nights at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates is a 34 year tradition attracting visitors from all over the nation to see millions of lights and decorations throughout the riverside homes and gardens of the famous families.

       Holiday Nights 08 092

This year there are many new surprises and the return of the successful favorites making this a ‘must do’ for families, residents, visitors and groups.   The Edison & Ford Winter Estates is a National Register Historic Site and has just completed more than $12 million in award winning restoration to the historic Edison and Ford buildings, and historic gardens.  In fact, the project won the top award for restoration from the National Trust for Historic Preservation this year because of its attention to restoration detail and authenticity. Just recently the Estates is adding a new outdoor lighting system for an additional $500,000.

The historic site prides itself on recreating the holiday tradition in the days of the Edison and Ford families and their hundreds of visitors.  The historic buildings, porches, interior rooms and the gardens are all seasonally decorated.  This year, there is a new spin – the lights will be brilliantly colored which was the fashion and original design of the 1920’s.  The lights are a combination of tiny bright lights, new LED varieties and antique light displays from the collections of the Estates and museums as far away as the Schenectady Museum in upstate New York (home of GE who manufactured the lights).  The site has also added areas with projected laser light star fields (Edison would have enjoyed this contemporary spin!).


Some of the old favorites and new additions for December 2009 include:

•           Millions of colored lights throughout the site which includes nine historic buildings and unique structures such as the 1910 above ground swimming pool and teahouse

•           Favorite Things theme for the antique, replica and designer decorations

•           Projected laser light star fields in the trees

•           Live performance holiday music nightly in the Estates Heritage Garden by groups (free to the public)

•           Children’s Holiday Tree Trail created by schools throughout Lee County

•           Holiday music throughout the gardens

•           Riverside Lights Café open nightly offering beverages and light foods for purchase overlooking the beautiful riverside property

•           Estates Museum and the Edison Botanic Research Lab will be open nightly with new exhibits and hundreds of artifacts as well as the Estates Museum Store

•           Historic Edison Creative Cottage open for the holidays with spectacular work for purchase by regional artists, authors and chefs

•           Holiday Cottage Shoppe open on the Ford Estate for wonderful gift items including tree ornaments, cards, books, jams and jellies, clothing and art work – including decorator holiday shirts by Leoma Lovegrove

•           Garden Shoppe open for purchase of Edison heritage plants and trees, flowering plants and new this year, hanging herb baskets which will be featured decorations throughout the historic site as well

•           Special Holiday Party to kick off the season at the gloriously decorated homes and gardens of the Estates on December 10 from 6 PM – 9 PM.  A spectacular evening with food and drinks by the river; live music; Creative Cottage artists and authors available to personalize gifts; photos with Santa, Thomas Edison & Henry Ford; special silent auction of wreaths.  Members $50, non members $60 

•           The Twenty One Wreaths of Holiday Nights, auction featuring designers/artists who will create a holiday wreath reflecting their unique design signature.  Wreaths will be auctioned off to the highest bidder at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates Holiday Party on December 10

“In addition to the millions of dollars in improvements to the overall site, the budget for Holiday Nights is always somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000 depending on the theme and other new concepts,” says Estates spokesperson, Lisa Sbuttoni.  “We also rely on the volunteer spirit and creativity of dozens of regional groups, businesses and other volunteers for their decorating skill and contributions.”  This year, the group includes:

Southwest Florida Community Bank; GE; Florida Power and Light; Hilton Garden Inn Fort Myers; Residence Inn by Marriott, Springhill Suites by Marriot; Courtyard by Marriott Gulf Coast Town Center; City of Fort Myers; Sak’s Fifth Avenue; Sondra’s Furniture Consignments;  The Edison Restaurant; Edison Park Neighborhood Association; Edwards family and friends;  Brinson family and friends; Jeanne Dozier; Lee County Convention Bureau; Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce; Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce; Margaret Sirianni; Parker/Mudgett/Smith Architects; Chris-Tel Construction; Edison Ford Winter Estates Foundation;  Goetz & Stropes Landscape Architects; South Florida Water Management District; O’Donnell Landscape Inc.; Society of Florida Landscape Architects of Southwest Florida; Smoot family and friends; Hospice of Southwest Florida, The Institute of Interior Design School, Southwest Florida College at the International Design; Southwest Florida Quilter’s Guild; Royal Palm Yacht Club; WGCU Public Media; Thompson Family; Creative Events/Taylor Rental of Fort Myers Inc.

Estates Breaking News

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 24th

•           McGregor Boulevard medians and new parking area

In the next few months, the City of Fort Myers will be creating planted medians at the entrance to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates on McGregor Boulevard.  The project will aid Estates visitors in locating the main entrance and in pedestrians making their way across McGregor Boulevard at the crossing light.  There is also a planned addition of 60 parking spaces at the rear of the property which will assist not only visitors to the Estates but general parking needs in the neighborhood.  City of Fort Myers Councilman Mike Flanders, provided a $130,000 grant for this project. 

 •           Estates receives grant for outreach science program

The Estates Wild Wizard program will travel to regional schools this year through a $25,000 grant from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.  The program includes free, hands-on science shows in schools with a topic of green science and the inventions of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.  Scheduling for the 2009-2010 school year is currently underway.  For more information call the Estates Education Department at 239-334-7419.

October 2009

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 24th

October at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates is highlighted with the return of the Estates Clothesline Quilt Show and Airing of the Quilts as well as a variety of other special programs throughout the month of October.  The October schedule of programs and events include:

Estates Fall Volunteer Event, October 8, 2 PM

Yvonne Hill, author of Sanibel Island, Florida (Images of America Series) will be the guest speaker.  After Hill’s discussion, volunteers will tour the inside of the historic homes with Estates Curator, Pam Miner, to view the recent restoration and improvements.  Registration is required by calling 239-334-7419.    

New Volunteer OrientationOctober 13, 10 AM

Join Estates staff to learn about volunteer opportunities, Estates policies and general Museum information.  This is a mandatory training for all new Estates volunteers but potential volunteers are welcome.

Home Schoolers: “Can You Hear Me Now?”  October 16, 1pm – 3pm

The science of communication technology is advancing everyday. Home schoolers will learn about Edison and Ford’s contribution to communication technology from phonograph to iPod.   Curriculum follows the Florida Sunshine objectives for learning.  The program follows the Lee County mandated program and addresses environmental science, history and reading SOLS.  Pre-visit curriculum materials will be mailed to registered families.  Registration required. Estates members $5; non members $15 (one adult, one child) additional $5 per child. 

Docent Training, October 22, 9 AM

New Estates volunteers who are interested in becoming Edison & Ford porch, Lab and Museum docents, or leading a group tour of the Estates grounds must attend this mandatory meeting.

Clothesline Quilt Show and Airing of Quilts, October 31, 10 AM – 2 PM

Clothesline Quilt Show

The Edison & Ford Winter Estates and the Southwest Florida Quilters’ Guild will be “airing their quilts” on clotheslines on the beautiful historic Edison estate.  The tradition of “airing” quilts dates back to Colonial America when women would take quilts out of summer storage and “air” them in autumn for use in winter.  In addition to the contemporary quilts available for show and sale, a variety of antique quilts will be on display, live Edison era music will be performed, and a collection of antique cars will be on display.  Estates Members FREE; non members $5. 

Estates at Downtown Farmers’ Market,   Thursdays, 7 AM – 1 PM

The Estates Garden Shoppe will be participating in the Downtown Farmers’ Market located in the Centennial Park parking lot.  The Estates joins fruit, vegetable, and fresh flower vendors in this 14 year tradition.  The Estates will offer herbs, heritage plants, garden supplies, and garden items available for purchase.  Estates members will receive a 10% discount. 

Mark your calendars: Upcoming Estates Events

•           Edison Garden Market, November 27, 28, & 29

Edison Garden Market

The Edison Garden Market attracts plant vendors from throughout the state to sell unique plants, orchids, herbs, trees and garden merchandise.  The event also includes workshops, food sales, music and other activities.  The Market is a great event for family and friends on Thanksgiving weekend. 

•           Edison & Ford Holiday Nights, Preview Party, December 10, 6 PM                                               

Kick off the holiday season with the first annual holiday party at the gloriously decorated homes and gardens of the Estates.  Guests will enjoy a special preview of the Estates annual event, food and beverages by the river, live music and much more.  Estates members, $50; non members $60.  To RSVP call 239-334-7419.

•           Edison & Ford Holiday Nights, December 11 – January 3, 5:30 PM – 9 PM

The Estates holiday tradition continues with “Edison & Ford Holiday Nights,” southwest Florida’s 34 year annual event.  The winter homes of the Edison and Ford families will be seasonally decorated with the “favorite things” of the Edison and Ford families.  The Edison Botanic Lab and Estates Museum will be open every evening with special exhibits as well as nightly holiday performances by area students and groups.  Special discount nights available to Lee County Residents opening weekend (December 11 &12).  Group rates are available to groups of 20 or more people with advance reservations.  For more information call 239-334-7419.

Learn Contra Dance at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 15th

Henry and Clara Ford DancingCelebrate the Edison & Ford Winter Estates newest Museum exhibit, “Music, Movies & Dance with Edison & Ford,” and learn how to Contra dance in the main exhibit hall in the Estates Museum on September 20, 2009 from  2 PM – 4 PM. 

Although Henry Ford is best known for his automobiles, Ford had other interests and avocations including a love of traditional American country dance. Ford believed that dancing taught social training, courtesy, good citizenship and rhythm. His love of dancing resulted in the building of Lovett Hall in Michigan, a place for people to learn traditional American dance. For twenty years traditional dance was taught to the Ford family, friends, employees, and school children.  Ford considered dancing to be a form of social training for boys and girls saying, “Courtesy makes friends and good manners keep them.” 

Ford organized the Early American Dance Orchestra to accompany the dancers.  The public was able to enjoy Ford’s love of music when The Early American Dance Music radio program broadcasted in 1944 -1945 with a “Dance Master” calling steps.  In 1926 Ford published a book, Good Morning After a Sleep of Twenty-Five Years; Old Fashioned Dancing is Being Revived.  The book is available at the Estates Museum Store. 

Contra dance is for the young and old, beginner and expert, singles and partners.  All Contra dances are explained and “walked through” by a Caller before they are danced.  Polkas, square dance steps and other called dances are part of the Contra dance experience.  The program includes a live traditional music dance band and expert instructors. 

The Estates Contra dance will be separated into two programs. At 2 PM the first of two 55 minute Contra dances will begin which includes a community participatory program and instruction. Before the second program begins, dancers from Dance Bochette will perform dances of the period including Quadrilles and a Varsouvienne.  Caller Gillian Carney teaches English Country Dancing at the Wa-Ke Hatchee Recreation Center and travels throughout Florida for Contra dance, Irish set dance and Scottish country dances.  The Assembly Line Band will be providing music for the dance.  Band member Gail Keel, keyboards/concertina, is a talented, passionate musician, who plays in several different bands, playing many different instruments, as well as multiple styles of music.  Fiddler, Jeff Moorhouse, has played for dances throughout Michigan and southwest Florida.

The Estates exhibit, “Music, Movies & Dance with Edison and Ford” focuses on the interest and inventions of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford related to music, dance and the movies.  The exhibit includes a collection of phonographs, projectors and other artifacts connected to sound, music and the movies.  The exhibit also includes viewing of early Edison silent films. 

Estates members are FREE; non members $12 adults, $6 children.  Cost includes dance instruction, refreshments and tour of the Lab and Museum.  Support of the exhibit and program is provided by:  Dance Bochette, Bill Smith Appliances & Electronics, Carter-Pritchett Advertising, Inc., Gillian Carney and The Assembly Line Band.

Estates Employee Receives E Award!

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 3rd
From left: Elaine McLaughlin, Barbara Prater, Tammy Hall 

From left: Elaine McLaughlin, Barbara Prater, Tammy Hall

The Edison & Ford Winter Estates is proud to announce that our very own Barbara Prater was honored with an E Award.  E Awards are given annually to recognize exceptional hospitality and customer service.

Barbara primarily works in the Estates Ford Cottage Shoppe located at the far end of the property.  Just recently a blind gentleman and his companion entered the Shoppe.  The companion needed to sit and rest a bit.  Barbara asked the blind gentleman if he wanted a tour of the historic cottage, and indeed he did.  She led him from room to room explaining the history of the cottage as she described pieces of art work and merchandise in each nook and cranny of the store.  She allowed him to feel the items as she explained in great detail what the item was, how it looked, and even mentioned a little about the artist that created it.  The gentleman and his companion were very grateful to her for all the time and care she had spent with him. 

When elderly visitors appear to be tired, Barbara asks if they need assistance back to the Estates Museum or parking lot and makes the necessary arrangements to fulfill their needs.  Barbara is one of those exceptional people who naturally has a smile on her face, a kind word to say, and intuitively knows how to respond to visitors who may need assistance and often are afraid to ask.  Because of her actions, Barbara’s immediate supervisor is often sought out by visitors to tell her what a fine job Barbara is doing.  The Estates is proud to have such a thoughtful employee as a member of our already exceptional staff.  Congratulations, Barbara!