Save Tesla’s lab!

-August 16, 2012

The site of Nikola Tesla’s last lab, known as Wardenclyffe, is up for sale. Priced at $1.6 million, there are two interested parties in the land: the first is a not-for-profit group that would like to build a museum to honor Tesla and his work on the land; the second is a developer who wants to build a “retail establishment.”

The state has already agreed to chip in $850,000 to the not-for-profit group, known as the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, and it’s collecting donations. But the developer already has a bid in for the land.

Wardenclyffe is located in Shoreham, NY, a stone’s throw away from where I sit writing this blog and even closer to the town I grew up in here on Long Island. It’s located on Route 25A in an up-and-coming area that’s seen a lot of McMansions sprout up in the last few years.

You can’t drive a mile around there nowadays without seeing a yogurt shop or nail salon. When I lived out there, though, it was mostly farms, much more similar to Tesla’s day. In fact, before Tesla bought his 200 acres, the spot was a potato farm.

Tesla purchased the land from James Warden (which is where the name “Wardenclyffe” came from) and set to work on what would become his only remaining laboratory building with its main purpose being wireless telegraphy. Well-known architects of the era were brought in to design the laboratory and transmitter tower, which stood at 187 feet high above ground and 120 feet deep below ground level. (See photo, Source: Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe)

When Tesla’s financial backing was lost, his instruments were repossessed and the tower was taken down by dynamite explosion, an order of the US government. That was 1917.

The land has changed corporate hands a few times since then but the brick-building lab has remained on the property. The town has considered the lab before for dedication as a historical site but – probably because most people have no idea who Tesla was – such an idea lacked public support.

The idea of a retail shop where Tesla worked is disgusting. It’s one thing to have Tesla be an unsung hero to the masses but another to have a Gap, or Container Store, or Wal-Mart, or whatever the undisclosed retail establishment is built where the Wardenclyffe’s wireless telegraphy tower once stood.

To be true, even if enough is raised by the not-for-profit group to buy the land, funds will be needed to build, furnish, and manage the museum. But it’s worth a shot and folks seem to be responding. In its first days of fundraising, the not-for-profit group has already gathered $440,000, which the group credits to help from The Oatmeal. The group only has six weeks to meet its goal.

You can donate and learn more about the not-for-profit’s plans here.

Follow the group on Twitter at teslascience for updates.

If we can pull this off, I’ll be at the museum on opening day to report on it to the EDN community. Please help save this site in whatever way you can.

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