Historic Preservation

Historic Preservation

The Uncommon Friends Foundation collects, preserves and exhibits archival and three-dimensional materials related to James D. and Eleanor Forde Newton and their relationships with the Uncommon Friends–Thomas A. and Mina Edison, Henry and Clara Ford, Harvey and Isabelle Firestone, Dr. Alexis and Anne-Marie Carrel, and Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

The Uncommon Friends Foundation evolved from James D. Newton’s book, “Uncommon Friends” that relates his many experiences with and observations of these influential men who shaped the 20th century. They thought and acted as pioneers. They specialized in the impossible and created breakthroughs. They were visionaries, seekers, and explorers with an astonishing awareness of the needs of their age and beyond. They not only changed James Newton’s life … but the life of everyone living in the 20th century.

Hearing about Jim Newton’s donation of his Charles Lindbergh’s letters to Yale University, Lee County Commissioner John Albion and Fran Myers, a local entrepreneur, were concerned that the other Newton papers might similarly leave Lee County, so they explored the idea of creating a foundation to protect the Newton legacy. James and Eleanor Newton consented to a historic partnership between the City of Fort Myers and Lee County, Florida in December 1993, with the creation of the Uncommon Friends Foundation. Michele W. Albion, Curator of the Edison Ford Winter Estates, inventoried and cataloged the Newton Collection, protecting it with archival boxes in a storage facility.

In 2008, the Uncommon Friends Foundation moved into the historic 1901 Burroughs Home, owned by the City of Fort Myers, and undertook the management and operation of this significant historic resource. Under the direction of the property manager, the home and gardens were restored to their former glory. After years of deferred maintenance and sporadic staffing, the gracious home opened for tours and special events.
A volunteer historic preservation consultant researched the Burroughs family artifacts, rewrote the docent manual, and studied the Newton collection which is now on display at the home, including a 1940’s afghan knitted by Mina Edison for the Newtons.

History on Display

Photo courtesy of Katie Egan and Naples Herald

Photo courtesy of Katie Egan and Naples Herald

On February 25, 2016, Florida Gulf Coast University opened a new exhibit entitled, “Uncommon Friends:  The James D. Newton Collection.” The exhibit is now open to the public through April 22 in FGCU’s library located at 10501 FGCU Blvd. S. in its Archives and Special Collections Galleries on the third floor (Rm. 322) 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Free parking is available in garage 1 (PG1).

Our friends at the Naples Herald ran a great story by Katie Egan about this new exhibit and one man’s very personal experience with author Jim Newton. FGCU Remembers a Man with “Uncommon Friends”

Through a partnership with Florida Gulf Coast University, we have digitally preserved and provided public access to our significant collection of historic materials, and they are now available online year around at FGCU’s Digital Exhibit.

Click Here to View Historic Photo Gallery