The Story of Edwin Binney: Crayola Founder & Fort Pierce Native

The tale of Edwin Binney, Crayola founder, and Fort Piece native, starts in 1866. The inventor was born in New York to an entrepreneur father who founded Peekskill Chemical. Once his father retired, Edwin took over the business.

In the year 1900, things began to shift when Edwin Binney and his cousin C. Harold Smith opened a mill in Pennsylvania to produce pencils for students. Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith started to make more changes to his father’s business. Their goal was to improve and expand the business. They eventually changed the company’s corporate name to Binney and Smith and began to invent and manufacture new products.

edwin binney

What Did Edwin Binney Invent?

Many people wonder, “What did Edwin Binney invent?” One of Edwin Binney’s most remarkable inventions was dustless white chalk. The chalk was well received and won a gold medal for its ingenuity at the 1902 St. Louis World’s Fair. When Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith realized they were on the right track, they continued their quest to create new writing utensils and saw a need for affordable wax crayons. Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith were the first inventors to develop a chemical-free crayon that was safe for children.

Although Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith are credited for creating crayons, Binney’s wife, Alice Stead, helped contribute to the invention by giving it a name. The crayon was made from petroleum-based wax, so Alice joined the French word “craie,” which means chalk, with the word “ola,” which means oily, to create the name for the invention. Edwin Binney Crayola crayons helped the inventor and his cousin etch their names in history and gain international recognition. Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith changed how the world creates art.

edwin binney crayola

Binney’s Contributions to Fort Pierce, Florida

Edwin Binney had a home in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, but once the inventor visited Fort Pierce, Florida, he decided it was the perfect location for his family to establish themselves. Edwin Binney saw potential in Fort Pierce, Florida.

He saw Fort Pierce’s many advantages that could make it a flourishing community. Edwin Binney appreciated that Fort Pierce, Florida, offered a fantastic opportunity to grow citrus. Binney personally invested in farming the land. The hundreds of acres of citrus groves owned by Edwin Binney were called Fort Pierce Farms.

Binney also believed that Fort Pierce’s natural harbor, only three miles from deep water, was perfect for shipping. Binney wanted to widen the natural inlet and created a Fort Pierce finance and construction company that oversaw the development of the inlet and port.

edwin binney estate fort pierce fl

Edwin Binney knew that a seaport would benefit citrus growers, farmers, and fisheries, which could use the port to export products. By 1929, the seaport was fully operational with docks and refrigerated facilities where companies could house perishable exports.

The inventor aspired to grow Fort Pierce, Florida and believed the area was fantastic for homes, retail shops, and parks. Edwin Binney started to plan tremendous development in the area. Unfortunately, the Great Depression prevented it from coming to fruition.

The Stock Market Crash Disrupted Edwin Binney’s Plans

Fort Pierce was on its way to becoming an affluent and wealthy city. However, two devastating hurricanes in 1926 and 1928 and the stock market crash in 1929 caused an economic downfall that halted the city’s development.

Edwin Binney is credited with keeping Fort Pierce financially afloat during the Great Depression by keeping the St. Lucie County Bank from going under. Many local banks closed their doors at that time as stockholders were wiped out. Edwin used his own money to keep the bank open.

stock market crash 1929

Edwin created jobs during those tough financial times to reduce Fort Pierce’s unemployment rates. The Binney family also kept the community fed with fresh produce. His philanthropic contribution to Fort Pierce made Edwin and his family well-loved community members.

Edwin Binney’s Fort Pierce Estate

In 1911, Edwin Binney carefully constructed a two-story Mediterranean-style home in a beautiful shade of pink for his family on five acres of lush Florida land. Binney’s wife, Alice, named the estate Florindia. She also meticulously named the road that led to the estate ‘Indrio.’ The name Indrio is a combination of two words: Indian and River.

front of edwin binney's estate in fort pierce

The Edwin Binney home has beautiful historical details, including gorgeous solid wood floors and solid wood paneling on the walls. The Binney estate is very spacious, with more than 6,000 square feet. It comprises a main house, guest home, and barn.

The main house has an updated roof and updated windows, although the current owners still have the original windows and would like to restore them to the house eventually. The owners would also like to restore the old wood frame house on the property. Janie Baugh and Dennis Jurkewicz now own the home.

Dorothy Binney’s Fort Pierce Home

Alice and Edwin had four children: Helen, Mary, Dorothy, and Edwin Junior. Of the four, Dorothy Binney decided to continue her parents’ legacy in Fort Pierce and settled down on the Treasure Coast, becoming a part of the city’s local history.

Like her father, Dorothy constructed an estate on the city’s outskirts in 1930. Dorothy‘s home is located at 8431 Immokolee Rd. She named her estate Immokolee, which in the native Seminole language means ‘the home place.’ Immokolee is near downtown Fort Pierce, yet feels as if it’s a world away because of its beautiful greenery. Ancient live oak trees surround the property. The home is a Mission revival architectural style home with 18 rooms. The house is whimsical, with interesting details and beautiful hammocks gracing the lanais.

dorothy binney house fort pierce

After the heiress died in 1982, her grandchildren took over the residence and completed several restoration projects throughout the 1980s and 1990s. However, many of Dorothy‘s original artwork, trinkets, and keepsakes are still displayed throughout the home. In 1994, the estate received approval for the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2021, Randy Gebhardt purchased Immokolee from Dorothy’s granddaughter. He has preserved the historic estate to honor the Binney family legacy. The estate is now a creative space for conservationists and storytellers.

Fort Pierce Designates the Edwin Binney Estate as a Historic Place

On April 4, 2024, local newspapers announced that city commissioners unanimously granted a historic designation to Edwin Binney’s Fort Pierce estate. The county considers several factors when placing a historic designation on a home. These include the significance of the person who owned the home or an event associated with the property. They also consider the architectural and aesthetic significance of the property.

Edwin Binney and his daughter Dorothy’s home qualified for historic designation. The designation of a nationally registered historic place means that certain structures on the Binney’s property will be preserved. Additionally, historic homes also receive certain tax breaks.

Homes on the National Register of Historic Places are forgiven for any increase in property taxes for up to 10 years. Restoration projects can potentially increase the property value; however, the historic designation will eliminate the tax increase. The Fort Pierce community also wants to ensure that projects that happen near and around the Edwin Binney estate complement the historic importance of the property and preserve the Edwin Binney bio and legacy.

Developers are Interested in the Land Surrounding the Binney Estate

Several developers have stated their interest in the land surrounding the Binney property. They see potential in the land to create new housing and recreational activities for Fort Pierce, Florida. Developer WGI of West Palm Beach purchased property surrounding the Edwin Binney estate. They planned to build an apartment complex of more than 270 units called Indrio Woods. The complex would contain a clubhouse, community garden, dog park, community, pool and recreational open space. However, the current owners of the Edwin Binney estate believe that the apartment would ruin the property.

A second developer, Jim Chalmers, wanted to create an RV resort less than a mile from the Binney house. His plans included space for 146 lots for RVs, a wave pool, and a lazy river with a waterfall and bar. Chalmers spent over $40K moving natural trees to the RV property. However, he also faces pushback from the Binney estate.

20th century fort pierce florida

Early photo of Fort Pierce during the 20th century.

Fort Pierce Honors Edwin Binney

Historical societies and museums in Fort Pierce honor Edwin Binney’s contribution to the city through exhibits and events that remember the inventor. In March 2024, the Fort Pierce Art Club held an event celebrating Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith at the Riverwalk Community Center. Several Crayola executives were in attendance.

After the Fort Pierce Art Club hosted the event, residents discussed the potential for a permanent attraction in Fort Pierce similar to the Crayola Experience in Orlando, Florida. The Edwin Binney Crayola Experience is an immersive, artistic, creative outlet for kids and adults who want to enjoy color-related activities.

crayola experience

Today, Crayola is a household name across the world.

Fort Pierce isn’t the only city that pays homage to the inventor. The Edwin Binney bio is impressive, and his contribution to art is known worldwide. The crayon is a beloved artistic staple in the homes of millions. Fort Pierce will never forget the incredible impact that Edwin Binney and his family had on the city. The inventor is a beloved hero in Fort Pierce, Florida.

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