By: Gillian Birch
Built in 1901, Burroughs Home and Garden is the only remaining home from the original “Millionaire’s Row” in downtown Fort Myers, Florida. Located on the banks of the broad Caloosahatchee River, this elegant Georgian Revival Mansion was actually ordered from a Sears-Roebuck catalog! It had to be delivered by railroad to Punta Gorda in 137 crates and then brought to Fort Myers by boat ready to be assembled.
History of the Burroughs Home and Gardens in Fort Myers
Now listed on the Register of Historic Places, this historic home was originally built for John T. Murphy, a cattleman from Montana. Nelson Burroughs acquired it from him in 1918 and it became a winter home for his family, including wife, Adeline, and two lively daughters, Jettie and Mona. The gardens were landscaped and used to host spectacular parties for similarly wealthy families including the Firestones, Fords, and Edisons.
As soon as you step through the door, it is very apparent that this was no ordinary off-the-peg home. The 6,000 square foot mansion still displays the quality interiors including original sliding shutters that were designed to allow cool breezes to flow through the house while maintaining privacy from the street.
Entertaining Guided Tours of Burroughs Home
Guided tours by docents take visitors on an informative adventure, pointing out the elegant chandeliers, corner fireplaces, stained glass window features, and pine wainscoting of this very comfortable home. You could almost picture yourself living there, until you reach the somewhat primitive 1920s era kitchen with its refrigerator and compressor on top!
During the tour, the docent tells some fascinating personal stories about the family, especially Mona. She was a vivacious young lady who would climb down the trellis from her bedroom at night and cycle to the pier for trysts with her many admirers.
Look out for the bench seat at the foot of the staircase. It is lined up with a cheval mirror so that Mona could view callers who sat waiting for her. She would only come downstairs if she liked the look of him! Another mirror beneath the marble hall table was used for checking the petticoat and hemline for modesty before the ladies left the house.
Burroughs Home has many other highlights to enjoy. The formal dining room has a restored mural on the walls depicting Florida wildlife and birds. A state-of-the-art annunciator still hangs on the wall where the butler would have announced that dinner was served. The Music Room has a rare Early Square Piano, an early gramophone, and an unusual collection of pictures featuring English kings and queens.
On the second floor landing there is an interesting display of correspondence between Edison and Ford where Edison blamed the cigarette paper, rather than the tobacco, for causing health issues. There’s also an exhibit showcasing Charles Lindberg’s first Trans-Atlantic flight from New York to Paris in 1927. He was a regular guest at the house.
Weddings and Events in Burroughs Gardens
The three-acre tropical gardens at the Burroughs Home include outbuildings and a garage that once housed two Rolls Royce Phantoms that belonged to the sisters. Beneath the shady oaks trees there is a romantic gazebo, fountain, and a reflecting pool. They provide a delightful setting for High Tea which is served on special occasions.
The gardens are also regularly used for weddings, charity fundraisers, and events which would surely meet with the approval of Mona Burroughs Fischer. The sociable heiress deeded the much-loved historic home to the City of Fort Myers in 1978 when she died. It continues to be a landmark on First Street, just a short stroll from the downtown shops, restaurants, and the historic Arcade Theatre.