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 lives of everyone living in the 20th century.
Upon hearing of Jim Newton’s donation of Charles Lindbergh’s letters to Yale University, Lee County Commissioner John Albion and entrepreneur Fran Myers 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 an 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 grand 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 Florida Gulf Coast University, including a 1940’s afghan knitted by Mina Edison for the Newtons.