There was a time in Fort Myers history when First Street was known as Millionaire's Row. It's no wonder why; it was lined by elegant and stately mansions owned by wealthy business tycoons and men of industry. East First Street runs alongside the Caloosahatchee River.
The area boasts beautiful views and the kind of storybook setting that no doubt made this street especially attractive when choosing a setting to build a grand mansion.
The Burroughs house was one of the very first of the grand homes built on what would come to be known as Millionaire's Row. Many believe that the newspaper stories following its construction are what sparked so much interest from other wealthy families. Many well-known families also came to build their homes in the area.
Many of the mansions of Millionaire's Row are no longer standing or have been moved to make way for progress. This was nearly the case for the Burroughs Home as well. When the Caloosahatchee Bridge was being planned, the historic Burroughs Home and Gardens was right in the middle of where the city planned to put it.
Luckily, the house was saved through the efforts of local leaders and community members. The grand old house remains the only one of Millionaire Row's mansions that is still standing in its original position.
It Wasn't Always the Burroughs Home
The Burroughs Home was originally built in 1901, but it wasn't the Burroughs family who had it built! The home was originally built for a cattle rancher named John T. Murphy. Getting the materials to build the home to the site was no easy task back in 1901. Murphy had to have the materials brought in by train and then carried the rest of the way to Fort Myers by barge.
Murphy sold the house to Nelson Burroughs in 1919, and the Burroughs family truly made this house their home. Nelson Burroughs, his wife Adeline, and their two daughters Mona and Jettie truly left their mark on the community. It wasn't until Mona's widowed husband Franz Fischer passed away in 1983 that the home stopped being used as the residence of the Burroughs family.
A Walk Back in Time
One of the most wonderful things about visiting the Burroughs Home and Gardens is that it really feels like you're stepping back in time. The sunny yellow home is beautifully preserved, and it features an array of magnificent Georgian-style architectural details. Inside you'll see a grand staircase, beautiful fireplaces, and antique furnishings.
Every room in the home is so lovingly maintained that there are even still family photos of the Burroughs family on display. When you visit you feel as though you are a guest of the Burroughs family themselves and that they might walk into the room and give you the grand tour.
The grand tour is in fact available thanks to the Uncommon Friends Foundation! Docents share the history of the home and stories of the Burroughs family in a lively and entertaining tour. Given that in its heyday the Burroughs home hosted some of the most elite social events in Fort Myers, there is no shortage of fascinating stories to tell.
If These Walls Could Talk
The Burroughs family came to Fort Myers to escape the frigid winters of the Midwest, but they didn't spend their winters in Florida quietly. The family was known for their high-society parties and elite guests. They hosted balls and danced into the night underneath the palm trees and oaks of their spectacular gardens.
The youngest member of the Burroughs family, Mona, was very admired by the local young men. She was a wild and adventurous young woman. We hear that she used to climb down the trellis from her bedroom window to meet her favorite suitors after dark!
With so many suitors coming to call on her and her sister Jettie, they placed a mirror at the foot of the stairs. That way they could see who was calling before they bothered to come down the steps.
Fort Myers was the winter home to many elite figures at the time the Burroughs lived there. Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone were among those known to have been regular guests at the lavish parties thrown by the family.
Two Acres of Lush Gardens
If we are going to talk about the house, we have to mention the grounds, and why it was so important to make sure the house stayed in its original location. These grounds were chosen for this mansion for a reason, they are breathtaking.
The Burroughs Home sits on two acres of land running alongside the Caloosahatchee River. You couldn't dream of a more picturesque setting for a home.
Palm trees and impressive live oaks spread their leafy canopy above your head as you look out at the river. Colorful flowers bloom around you in the lovingly manicured gardens. There is a reflecting pool to daydream beside and there's even a grotto on the grounds.
It's not surprising to find that this historic Florida attraction not only draws tourists but is also a sought-after wedding and event venue. It's a fitting legacy for this well-known home that it continues to host many of Fort Myers' most special and elite events.
A Legacy of Grand Parties
The Burroughs Home and Gardens may be a registered historical landmark, but it has not given up its legacy of lavish parties. The historic home and gardens remain one of Fort Myers' most beautiful venues for weddings and events of all kinds.
In order to accommodate outdoor guests more comfortably, an open-air pavilion was built on the grounds and can seat 200 party guests. The pavilion provides a sheltered space for partygoers to dine and dance while they enjoy a view of the river.
For parties thrown on Florida's many warm days, the pavilion also features air conditioning. We're sure the guests of the Burroughs family would have appreciated that feature had it been invented in their time!
Jettie and Mona would be glad to know that their home still hosts some of the grandest parties in Fort Myers.
Holidays at the Burroughs Home and Gardens
The spring and summer in Fort Myers are lovely, and summer travel to Florida is certainly big business, but don't discount winter in Fort Myers. Remember that the Burroughs themselves came to Florida to escape the cold winters of their home state.
One can imagine the kind of spectacular decorations and displays that the Burroughs themselves would likely have put up for the Christmas holiday. They no doubt threw seasonal parties and invited all of the most prominent residents of Fort Myers.
It's in that spirit that each December, the Fort Myers Community Women's Club decorates the historic mansion in grand style. The Christmas decorations are truly a sight to behold. The mansion is decked out in lights and decorations on both the inside and outside of the home, delighting children and adults alike.
Picturesque in Every Way
With the scenic garden setting and the beauty of the delicately yellow-colored Georgian Revival-style mansion, the Burroughs Home and Gardens are a must-see when you visit Fort Myers, Florida. Once you have spent an afternoon looking out at the river from the veranda of this stately home, you won't forget this magical place.
The Burroughs Home is so breathtaking that it's even inspired artists to capture its timeless beauty. If you've visited this beautiful home or held your wedding on the grounds, you'll understand why. The image of this place is one that you remember forever.
We Hope You've Been Inspired
We hope that reading this guide about the Burroughs Home and Gardens has inspired you to see this beautiful and historic place for yourself. Fort Myers, Florida has so much to offer any traveler. We also hope you're inspired to consider the history of your future travel destinations.
Many of the most interesting and beautiful places to visit are the ones you'll find on the roads less traveled. There are so many hidden historical gems out there in the world just waiting for you to discover them!
If you enjoyed taking this journey with us, please keep reading! Our journal is full of even more interesting articles about travel and what inspires us!