Group buys Tesla property, plans centre

Last updated 13:37 08/05/2013
Wardenclyffe lab
BRIGHT SPARKS: Nikola Tesla's Wardenclyffe lab building, as seen in 1904.
Nikola Tesla
GEEK HERO: Genius inventor Nikola Tesla.

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A New York community group that raised US$1.3 million (NZ$1.5 million) in a six-week online fundraising effort has purchased a laboratory once used by visionary scientist Nikola Tesla.

"We're feeling very excited and gratified that we've reached this milestone," said Jane Alcorn, president of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, on Long Island. Her group announced last week that it had finalised the purchase of the Tesla lab and property for US$850,000.

Tesla was a rival of Thomas Edison who imagined a world of free electricity. He conducted experiments in the early 20th century at his laboratory in Shoreham, about 65 miles east of New York City.

Volunteers struggled for nearly two decades to raise money to acquire the property with limited success.

Their effort got a jolt of support last summer from Seattle cartoonist Matthew Inman, a Tesla fan who started promoting the fundraising effort on his website, theoatmeal.com.

Within six weeks, more than US$1.3 million had been raised from 33,000 donors in the US and 108 countries.

Tesla abandoned the lab in 1917. For many years it was a photo chemical processing plant; in 1993, officials determined that the property's groundwater had been polluted with cadmium and silver. A remediation effort overseen by state environmental regulators was completed last year.

Alcorn said that the purchase of the property was a key first step but noted much work needs to be done before the group can realise its goal: "to create a fitting memorial to Tesla and a science centre to benefit the entire world."

She estimated another US$10 million will be required to renovate the property, which is overrun with brush and includes several dilapidated buildings in the complex that will likely need to be demolished.

Alcorn said her group's first priority is to secure the property from further vandalism. Additional fundraisers are being discussed, but Alcorn had no specific details.

Among Tesla's accomplishments were developments in alternating current and research in the creation of wireless communication and radio. He died in New York City in 1943.

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- AP

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