Standing Henry Ford
Standing Henry Ford
Don Wilkins’ Standing Henry Ford is a 7-foot-4-inch cold cast aluminum sculpture located outside the car manufacturer’s American bungalow-style Fort Myers retreat, The Mangoes, at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. It was dedicated on July 29, 2007, the day prior to the 144th anniversary of the inventor’s birth.
“Unlike Edison whose clothing was often worn and crumpled, Henry Ford had a reputation as a sharp dressed man,” Wilkins relates. “All the reference photos I consulted show that he paid meticulous attention to his clothing, so all the lines in his suit are crisp and tailored to the hilt.”
Ford first met Edison at a convention held in 1896 by the Edison Illuminating Company, for whom Ford worked as an engineer. However, he did not make his first trip to Fort Myers until 1914, when Edison invited him to come along on a camping trip into the Florida Everglades. Calling themselves “the Vagabonds,” Ford and Edison, along with Harvey Firestone and John Burroughs, would make many more camping trips over the next decade and a half, building bonds of friendship that are memorialized today by another D.J. Wilkins sculpture, Uncommon Friends.
Ford returned to The Mangoes only sporadically after Thomas Edison’s death in 1931. He sold his estate to Thomas and Gladys Biggar in 1945. In 1988, the City of Fort Myers purchased Henry Ford’s estate for $1.5 million, restored it to its historic appearance and opened it to the public in 1989. The property is now managed by Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Winter Estates, Inc., a local non-profit organization.
The Edison & Ford Winter Estates is located at 2350 McGregor Boulevard, Fort Myers, FL 33901. Its map coordinates are latitude N 26° 38′ 4.7472″ and longitude W 81° 52′ 50.0304″.
Artist: Don "D.J." Wilkins
Sculptor Don “D.J.” Wilkins was “discovered” by the Fort Myers Beautification Advisory Board in 1983, when they engaged him to reassemble the Tootie McGregor Fountain at its current location in the parking lot of the Fort Myers Country Club and conserve The Spirit of Fort Myers, popularly known as Rachel at the Well. In the ensuing two decades, the Beautification Advisory Board and other benefactors commissioned him to create 23 original sculptural installations throughout the city of Fort Myers, including chronologically:
- The Florida Panthers (1988);
- Uncommon Friends (1988);
- The Great Turtle Chase (1990);
- The Harborside Collection, consisting of busts of Chief Billy Bowlegs, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Thomas Alva Edison, Capt. Francis Asbury Hendry, Connie Mack Sr., James D. Newton and Tootie McGregor Terry (1990);
- The USCT 2nd Regiment Monument (1998);
- Wes Nott Memorial (2000);
- Standing Thomas Edison at the entry to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates (2005);
- Seated Mina Edison at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates (2009); and
- Standing Henry Ford at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates (2009).
Wilkins also played an instrumental role in restoring the Felix De Weldon Iwo Jima Memorial in Eco Park on Veteran’s Parkway in Cape Coral.