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Nikola Tesla on Long Island - Interview with Jane Alcorn

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Nikola Tesla on Long Island - Interview with Jane Alcorn - page 3
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons - public domain

Wardenclyffe, Nikola Tesla's laboratory on Long Island

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons - public domain
About.com: Stanford White designed the laboratory. How did that come about?
Jane Alcorn: He and Stanford White became friends, probably from associations in New York City. White designed the Washington Square Arch, the original Madison Square Garden, and many other famous buildings. His firm, McKim, Mead and White, was one of the preeminent architectural firms of the time.

About.com: How did Wardenclyffe go from being a working laboratory for Tesla to being abandoned and in ruins?
Jane Alcorn: A little history of Wardenclyffe: of course, Tesla started the laboratory there when he received the property and he had Stanford White design the laboratory, a 94 x 94 foot, square building and one of White’s associates designed the structure of the tower, meeting Tesla’s specifications.

But when Tesla was unable to get the additional financing to continue his work there -- J.P. Morgan turned him down for the additional money that he requested-- Tesla wasn’t able to continue with his work there very much longer.

After a period of time, he had debts to pay, mostly concerning his back rent at the Waldorf, and he didn’t have the money to pay for it. So at some point, when Tesla moved out, the Waldorf began proceedings to get the money owed to them. One of the ways that they looked to do that was to force Tesla to sell his assets, and one of the biggest assets he had was this property.

So around 1915, the Waldorf got a ruling that Tesla had to sell his property, and he had to hand over the deed to George Boldt at the Waldorf to satisfy his debt.

About.com: Why is it important to save Wardenclyffe?
Jane Alcorn: It’s important in terms of its historic nature. It’s a building that was designed by a well-known architect, so it has architectural significance.

Scientifically, of course, what Tesla was trying to do there is still being explored. People don’t really understand fully yet what he wanted to do. We have some idea, so there’s that scientific curiosity.

And then, as a historic scientific site, since Tesla was such a prolific inventor and a forward-thinking scientist, and this is the only lab anywhere in the world where Tesla worked that still remains. It deserves to be saved for that reason as well. He deserves this kind of monument.

There’s a statue of him at Niagara Falls. There are other statues and busts of him around the country and in Europe where he lived. But this is the only remaining laboratory. And when you think of all he contributed to modern-day technology, and to our lives and to realize how unsung he is, it is so wrong to not protect this last remaining site. He should be honored in this very small way, really.

It’s not just a local, statewide or national historic site. I think it’s an internationally important place. Obviously, Tesla’s work has had more impact than just locally. It has had a global reach.

About.com: What’s the vision for this proposed science center?
Jane Alcorn: Well, of course, one part of it would obviously be a Tesla museum where we would present Tesla’s work in the context of today’s science and all the offshoots that have been derived from his work. We hope to have replicas of some of his equipment and information about his life.

But we also would like it to be more than that. We’d like it to be a science center where young people could be inspired, and learn and work and spend time on their own through mentorships and so on. They could perhaps become the inventors we need for the future.

We have a wide range of possibilities and dreams for the site. We’d like to have programs for the community at large for adults: symposiums and conferences and workshops. We’d like to have physics and math playground outside for children to learn scientific principles through play. School groups could come to and learn at the center. We’d also like to have speakers come.

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