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Edison & Ford Winter Estates Blog

Archive for the ‘President’s Update’ Category

President’s Message – Chris Pendleton, President & CEO

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On December 17, 2016

The annual celebration for our members and patrons was a great event this year! As the photos show, the celebration was attended by hundreds of members, patrons and leaders from throughout the region who came to celebrate our 10th year as a non-profit organization and also the grand opening of the Edison Ford River Pavilion. Trustees were joined by the pavilion project architects  Parker/Mudgett/Smith, AIA, Casey Construction, City Manager Saeed Kazemi, and Councilman Mike Flanders for the ribbon cutting.


Membership of individuals and businesses provides a great deal of support for Edison Ford, in involvement on the site, in donation of in-kind goods and services and financially. In fact, financially the membership and contribution program provides about $300,000 annually of the support for the Edison & Ford Winter Estates education and preservation programs. December is our traditional time to ask for donations to continue this program of support.

Your contributions are entirely tax deductible as Edison Ford is classified as an exempt 501(c)(3) educational charity by the IRS. Donations may be earmarked for specific projects including student scholarships, memorial trees or a myriad of other restricted projects.

Please complete the donation form and send it to the Development Office at Edison Ford, or call Nancy Achter, Development Manager at 239-335-3678 for more information.

President’s Message ~ Chris Pendleton, President & CEO

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On November 3, 2016
Photo by Ilene Safron - Mainsail Productions

Photo by Ilene Safron – Mainsail Productions

One of the most exciting new features of the Edison Ford site will open on November 13, 2016 with the ribbon cutting ceremony at 3:00 p.m. The Edison River Pavilion has been a long time in the planning and funding process, but it is well worth the wait, as it is spectacular!!

We hope all of our Members turn out for the opening to see the beautiful new open-air pavilion and to enjoy an afternoon of music, hors d’oeurves, beverages, and time with friends. It will also be a great time to meet Edison Ford staff and the political leaders who helped make this happen. Remember to RSVP by November 7 to Darlene Hermey, Membership Coordinator at 239-334-7419 or dhermey@edisonfordwinterestates.org.

river-pavilion-with-bunting     We all know the history by now, but to remind us again, this new structure replicates the original Edison River Pavilion that sat at the end of the long, long pier. The original river pavilion was destroyed as well as the connecting pier, but with the help of FEMA, the State of Florida Emergency Management and the resources of the City of Fort Myers and Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Inc., we have built a great replica which meets current code and will be safe from the storms out on the Caloosahatchee.

Today the cove at Edison Ford is a beautiful and protected historical and environmental treasure as it is home to endangered manatees and sawfish, as well as other fish and river grasses. The Edison River Pavilion and Coconut Grove is a great place for an event or just to watch the river.

river-pavilion-table-and-chairs     The new Edison River Pavilion is now ready for special events and parties. It is already being snapped up by groups, families and businesses as a great place for holiday parties, anniversaries, weddings and social group meetings. The rental fees are very affordable and groups will be able to pick from our caterers or bring in their own food choices. Rental table and chair options are also available. Beverages can be made available by our friends at Pinchers at The Marina at Edison Ford. For more information on this great new entertainment area, contact Cori Cramsey, Events Manager at ccramsey@edisonfordwinterestates.org or call 239-334-7419.

I hope all of our members will come to the annual Membership Celebration to see the new Edison River Pavilion, and join us throughout the year for music and special events in this exciting new location.

President’s Message ~ Chris Pendleton, President & CEO

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On October 4, 2016
Photo by Ilene Safron - Mainsail Productions

Photo by Ilene Safron – Mainsail Productions

FMHS bandOur work in education continues to strengthen with many exciting projects underway. Almost all of them are serious, research and curriculum based, but some also combine innovative uses of the property that both the Edison and Ford families would really love.

One of the projects happened on September 21, 2016, and I thought I would give you a head’s up and tell you about a happening for 160 high school students who will travel to London, England to perform in the Annual New Year’s Day Parade on January 1, 2017.

FMHS band 3The students gathered for some pre-travel work with the BBC right here on the Edison and Ford Estates. In the photos, you can see the performance on the lawn that was recorded by the BBC for use closer to the event in London. We want to thank Mark Dahlberg, Fort Myers High School Music Educator, for thinking of us as the location for this historic practice session. I only hope the Edison and Ford families heard this because it was spectacular. We look forward to showcasing more of our talented students at Edison Ford.

FMHS band 2

Looking Back – the Edison & Ford Winter Estates

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On August 30, 2016
Photo by Ilene Safron - Mainsail Productions

Photo by Ilene Safron – Mainsail Productions

As Edison Ford begins to celebrate our tenth year anniversary as a non-profit organization, we are meeting with former trustees to record oral history, photographs and information about the Edison Estate and the Ford Estate through the decades. It is a very, very interesting project.

In fact, just a few weeks ago, we had the honor of meeting with our former board member, Walter Sheppard, age 96, who was on the Advisory Board of the Edison Home from 1951 to 1962, serving as Chairman of the Board in 1959 and 1960. Walter was also a Florida Legislator from 1952 to 1960, a prominent Fort Myers attorney, a pilot during wartime and afterwards, and a great raconteur of stories and lore about our site and Fort Myers. One of my favorite stories involves a stick, a bicycle, the Edison picket fence, and Thomas Edison. Walter has helped us “fill in the blanks” about the activity during his tenure on the board and about other board members. Thanks Walter!

In the months ahead, we will also work with Mainsail Productions and our curatorial staff to interview other board members and trustees including longtime board member, Tom Smoot. In another related project, current trustee Madeleine Plummer and her committee have been working with the minutes of the Edison Home and Edison Ford from 1947 – current day to track our progress over the years. We thank Fort Myers City Clerk Marie Adams for helping us to find these critical minutes and other documents.

If you can help by providing photographs and other leads, contact Chief Curator Mike Cosden at 239-334-7419.

Our plan is to collect all of these histories and show them at the Incandescent Evening Gala on April 22, 2017. If you can help us track down other former leaders of Edison Ford or can volunteer yourself, contact Nancy Achter in my office at 239-335-3678.

walter sheppard pics

President’s Message ~ Chris Pendleton, President & CEO

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On August 12, 2016

presidents update chris     If you have been catching up regularly with the changes at Edison Ford, you will know for the past 15 years our focus has been on restoring and preserving the historic buildings and gardens. In fact, we started with the Edison riverside buildings about that long ago, and moved on to the Ford estate, and the riverside gardens winning the National Trust and the National Garden Club top awards in the process. Our next project was the restoration of the Edison Botanic Research Laboratory and we were designated a National Historical Landmark as a result. The total for all of this work has now approached $14 million dollars!

With that under our belt our newest projects will focus on the following two projects:

  1. Upgrading the public gathering areas and adding the River Pavilion in the Coconut Grove on the riverside and adding more porches and gathering areas around the museum.
  1. Upgrading the Edison Ford Museum (which dates back to the 1960’s) with new facilities, flooring, and most importantly exhibits. With the Hall of Invention now completed (originally built in 1984 as an addition), we are moving on to the large initial gallery, which we call the Orientation Gallery.

Our changes to the exhibits, special exhibits and overall look of the Edison Ford Museum will continue to happen while visitors enjoy the process and full access to the Museum. This is being headed by our Chief Curator, Mike Cosden; Assistant Curator, Brent Newman; Exhibit Specialist and Conservator, Megan Kissinger; Registrar and Researcher, Matt Andres; Automotive Curator, James Moss; Archivist and Historian, Andrew Scheip; and Bobby Feldman and Holly Shaffer who manage all of the interpretation and activities in the Museum.

museum curatorial and joyce owens     Joyce Owens, Architect (Fort Myers and Incoming President of Florida AIA) is our consultant on this project helping us with design considerations, traffic flow and all of the other related factors which will make the museum even more interesting.

As Edison Ford’s President & CEO for the past 15 years (with years previously directing science, industrial, history and art museums), I am excited about the museum overhaul which will bring in more hands-on activities as well as an overall more contemporary “look.”

In 2017, we will install the new Spark Lab in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution. Edison Ford will be the only site in the South to host this prestigious project which will help us create a hands-on exhibit for invention.

Please join us regularly to watch our progress as we install new exhibits, host special exhibits and bring to life our very large collection of inventions and historical and industrial artifacts. We are honoring Edison, Ford and the invention process for all “inquiring minds.”

museum blueprints and sketches joyce owens aug 2016

President’s Update ~ Chris Pendleton, President & CEO

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 1, 2016

presidents update chrisWe always get questions about storm preparation here at Edison Ford, so I thought I would share some of our prep work as June 1 started the season for storms and hurricanes.

Not only do we prepare the historic buildings, the Museum and office buildings, but we also prepare the historical collections/artifacts and the living collections/garden plants.

By June 1 of every year, the curatorial staff has completed updating all of our artifact and living collections inventory, and that includes the actual inventory, and also photographs of the site. One of our most interesting semi-annual inventories is the plant inventory that is completed by Plant Curator, Britta Soderqvist. It is available on our website, and of course stored offsite and in “the cloud.” Our important specimen historical trees are also insured.

edison and guest house mapI included a page from Britta’s report which is testimony to her care, concern and knowledge. Britta also regularly leads the garden tours (after summer school break) and is a regular lecturer here at Edison Ford.

Part of the process for the living collection is the stormscaping of the landscape and plantings. Many of our members attended the excellent lecture last month by our staff and noted arborist, Rick Joyce, which provided detailed information on pruning and preparation for the “stormy season.” For us, stormscaping is completed by June 1, the start of hurricane season, with regular attention throughout the summer and fall months.

For our non-living collections, the same process happens. All of the historical and non-historical structures are photographed, inventoried and entered into a system called The Smart System which includes the historical treatments and photographs of every provenance item. The artifacts are also included in this photo update. Upper floors are already prepared for window damage and our new system for the shutters on the homes enables us to simply close the shutters with the back side made of hurricane rated materials.

Larger historical collections, like the antique automobiles, are moved offsite at the first sign of a major storm. The most fragile pieces of porch furniture are already in the garages, much like the Edison and Ford families would have done. As the summer progresses, larger furniture pieces are moved out of the houses, like the Edison piano, which will be displayed in the Museum. Display of smaller pieces in the historic buildings is reduced during the summer months, as in case of a storm, all of the furniture is removed from the historic buildings. That’s quite a drill for us as it involves moving vans, curatorial staff with gloves and carts, and “all hands on deck.”

We have a new program in place this year with the addition of “a virtual tour” of the property available in the Museum on stormy days. This “virtual tour” takes the visitor through each of the stops on the walking tour and presents it in the Museum. The virtual tour will include some work with artifacts and a great virtual tour with the historian tour guides.  Participants will be able to return with a free ticket on non-stormy days, but at least they are able to tour virtually on stormy days.

Our advice to visitors (especially during the stormy months) is to call ahead and talk with someone about the weather conditions and special offerings, as we are open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. As our members know, we are an old fashioned place with staff and volunteers answering phones to direct and answer questions.

President’s Update ~ Chris Pendleton, President & CEO

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On June 2, 2016

president updateIt is hard to believe that 10 years have transpired since the new corporation (Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Inc. – DBA Edison Ford) began in October 2006 to take on restoration and oversight of the beautiful estates of the Edison and Ford Families, other properties and museum. Now, it is 10 years later, and we have a 99 year lease from the City on the Edison & Ford Winter Estates with our commitment to continued excellence in restoration, education and steady growth of this site.

save the date 04 22 2017 galaBut it is true, 2016 and 2017 mark this historic date for our 10th Anniversary. Thank you City of Fort Myers for your vote of confidence in transferring the site to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. We also thank the State of Florida, Lee County, the Charles Edison Fund, the Edison Ford Foundation and the Edison Ford Board of Trustees for your financial and ongoing involvement.

We will celebrate the10th Anniversary all year with gilded sticker images on all publications. So look for gilded sticker images on the gates, and throughout the property.

leoma lovegrove moonlight painting

Painting by Artist Leoma Lovegrove

There will be a celebratory, 10th Incandescent Evening, on April 22, 2017. Yes, 10 years ago on this date, all of our partners and the National Trust for Historic Preservation came together for an evening of celebrating , great local foods, beverages, music, dancing, science shows and special tours.

We will be sending out a “Save the Date” postcard soon for April 22, 2017, so look for it and post it prominently. Tickets will go on sale this December 2016 (this would make the perfect holiday gift!). Get out your garden togs, white dinner jackets, frocks, shirt and shoes and plan to get an early start on all the fun on April 22, 2017.

incandescent evening 2006I found some photos from our first Incandescent Evening in 2006. This next evening event will be chaired by Steve and Sharon Niehaus, our dynamic Edison Ford Chair of the Board of Trustees, and by Sass and Charles Edwards (Sass was our previous Chair and helped me through the entire transition from city-managed to private non-profit corporation, the tough restoration years and up to the present … she is a great, great lady.) Please plan to join us all for this great celebration.

Director Tours Gathering

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On May 5, 2016

● May 6, 2:00 p.m.
director's tour lakeland water domeWith two more Director Tours remaining (Florida Southern College Lakeland and Southwest Florida Island Hopping to Boca Grande) and six under our belt for this season, participants are gathering for sharing of photos and memorabilia, a power point of the trips, refreshments and social time.

director's tour lakeland 2016Members who have not participated yet, are invited to join the Gathering to find out what’s on tap for the next season. To RSVP contact Nancy Achter at nachter@edisonfordwinterestates.org or call 239-334-7419.

director's tour lighthouse


President’s Update ~ Chris Pendleton, President & CEO

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On March 4, 2016

president updateIt seems as though I am always looking ahead with news … and finally our immediate future news includes the construction of the Edison River Pavilion in the Coconut Grove. The work should begin in April 2016 and conclude before July 4, 2016.

Funding for the $230,000 project is through storm funds from FEMA, City of Fort Myers, State of Florida Emergency Management and the Edison & Ford Winter Estates.

river pavilion with drawingAccess to this contemporary 30×40 version on land of the original Edison River Pavilion will be both through the Edison Estate Gardens as well as through the new Event Entrance and the Marina at Edison Ford. In addition to its use for education programs, it will also provide a covered area for river watching for touring visitors, as well as a new spot for musical performances during the day and for evening and sunset activities.

The Edison River Pavilion will also be great for rentals, weddings and other activities.

President’s Update ~ Chris Pendleton, President & CEO

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On December 31, 2015

president updateRestoration pics for January 2016 president's update2016 marks the 10th Anniversary of the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. We began operating as a non-profit charity in October 2006, and with your help, we have proven our ability to preserve and restore the site and also to develop new programs and facilities. Thank you for your engagement and active involvement!

With almost $14 million in restoration and expansion under our belts, it is almost difficult to remember the condition of the buildings and gardens when we took on the transition to private management. I have included a few
restoration photos just to remind us of our work these many years.

We have also completed new construction projects like the new Museum West Porch, the North FPL Solar Field, classrooms wherever we can find space, and renovations to the Museum.

This year, we will complete the replica of the Edison River Pavilion in the Coconut Grove for more space to hold events and programs. Ground breaking is scheduled for January.

We have run a very conservative budget throughout and established the foundation for a capital reserve with plans for an expanded auditorium, classroom and office areas to house our staff of 50 plus. Our volunteer program has grown to more than 250 dedicated unpaid staff who meet monthly for programs and professional development.

One of our proudest achievements is the growth of a very innovative and important education program which provides opportunities like engineering and computer classes, art experiences, technology and mechanics, and
horticulture for preschoolers through adult learners.

Please join us throughout the year ahead for activities to expand your horizons and see how the Edison and Ford legacies are continuing to thrive at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates.