Except for the “chief weed stalkers,” the Fort Myers laboratory staff of seven men had arrived on January 16, 1929, ahead of the Edisons. The weed stalkers were on their way, after scouring the landscape in New Mexico and Arizona for plant specimens.
Mrs. Edison planned a surprise for her husband and secretly had a small private office and chemical laboratory constructed on the site of the old laboratory. A rear door opened onto a sunken garden where the original laboratory once stood. The private office was a gray building with a small front porch. It contained a desk and a chair before an open fire place, books for the bookshelves and a set of chemical experiment equipment. On the wall hung a yellow banner that had been presented to Edison when he was inducted into the local Civitan Club as an honorary member. Edison used the small laboratory at night and on Saturday afternoons. The proximity to the house made it easier for the ageing Edison, particularly since the main laboratory had been constructed across McGregor Boulevard. It was perfectly designed for the small armies of newsmen who descended on Seminole Lodge from time to time.
Scarlet bougainvillea surrounded the sunken garden, trained to a trellis and in full bloom when the Edisons arrived. Protecting those shrubs and vines from harm during the removal of the old lab had been one of the chief concerns of Mrs. Edison. The garden consisted of twenty-five small beds of plants and flowers, laid out in a geometric pattern designed by Mrs. Edison. Italian cypress grew inside the trellis at regular intervals. Other improvements included two diving boards and a green-flagged tile patio at the pool. Sea shells were spread on the walkways leading to the pool area and other walkways on the estate were carpeted with pine straw.
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