Wardenclyffe Laboratory is the last remaining research facility of Nikola Tesla, the famed Serb/Croat (he is claimed by both) physicist whose bold ideas about electricity led to the development of alternating current motors and radio communications. Originally built with the goal of transmitting electrical signals across the Atlantic Ocean, the laboratory also had a secret purpose unbeknownst to its primary investor J.P. Morgan.
Construction began on the brick laboratory and 187-foot transmitting tower in 1901 under the supervision of famous architect (and later, famous murder victim) Stanford White. However, with Guglielmo Marconi’s success in signaling the letter “S” from England to Newfoundland in December of that year, the project lost momentum. In need of funds, Tesla was forced to disclose the laboratory’s true objective: to electrify the Earth by wirelessly transferring power to the entire globe.
Like many of Tesla’s scientific contemporaries, Morgan was skeptical of the project’s practicality and withdrew his support in 1903. The frustrated Tesla retreated to his laboratory, and flipped the switch for the first time on the massive transmitting tower. Stories of the lightning-like flashes that penetrated the night sky circulated amongst the townspeople, but the scientist gave no explanation for the experiments the following day.
Eventually, Tesla was forced to sell Wardenclyffe to settle outstanding hotel bills at the Waldorf-Astoria. By 1917, the tower had been demolished and sold for scrap. What was once a bustling laboratory full of glass-blown equipment, a complete machine shop, X-Ray devices, Tesla coils, a radio controlled boat, generators, and transformers became a vacant monument to Tesla’s “forfeited dream.”
For years, the building turned to ruins and it looked like its demolition was likely. However, in May of 2013, the Wardenclyffe Laboratory was purchased by the Friends of Science East, Inc. with the plan to turn it into a museum called the Tesla Science Center.
By September 2013, with the help of over a hundred volunteers, the group had secured the site and its building, cleaned up the grounds outside of the buildings, and built a monument for a statue of Nikola Tesla donated by the Government of the Republic of Serbia. On September 23, President Tomislav Nikolic of the Republic of Serbia and other dignitaries visited Wardenclyffe to dedicate the statue and monument.
According to the Tesla Science Center group, the property is an active industrial cleanup and reconstruction site, one which poses potentially hazardous conditions. For safety reasons and to protect its historical integrity, the group will keep the site closed for the foreseeable future, except for scheduled work and for occasional events. However, visitors can see the Tesla statue from New York 25A, behind which one can see the large octagonal foundation of Tesla’s former transmission tower and the brick laboratory building designed by White.
With access to the laboratory, these historical preservationists might even reveal still unknown goals of Tesla’s most audacious project. Wardenclyffe is also likely to provide an explanation for the often-rumored network of underground passages that are said to extend from deep below the laboratory all the way to the beachfront.
Know Before You Go
The Laboratory is located at the corner of Tesla Street and NY Route 25A in Shoreham on Long Island, just 65 miles from Brooklyn. The Tesla Science Center is on private property and can only be accessed during events open to the public and through business appointments.