Groundbreaking at Nikola Tesla’s Last Remaining Lab

Photo of volunteers at the Tesla Science Center getting their shovels in the ground.

Volunteers get shovels in the dirt at Nikola Tesla’s last remaining laboratory, which is now the Tesla Science Center. Photo by Katheryn Laible

It was an honor to attend the Phase 1 groundbreaking ceremony for the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe (TSCW); a milestone in a massive international and yet deeply local endeavor to restore Nikola Tesla’s last remaining laboratory, advance his humanistic legacy, and inspire great innovation.

Statue of Nikola Tesla donated by his homeland, the Nation of Serbia

Progress to Date

Much has already happened. Ground clearing and more were accomplished through remarkable volunteer efforts. The Nation of Serbia gifted a meaningful statue that is now central to one of the most clever buy-a-brick campaigns I’ve ever seen. A chimney and well head were restored in 2020. Much remediation work has been done. Research and endeavors to collect artifacts and craft plans have been substantial, as have been virtual, on-site and satellite education programs, many of which advance the arts as well as science.

Much remains to be done, but this is big! This latest phase involves demolition of buildings built by later tenants and the establishment of a Visitors Center.

Most everyone in attendance had something to do with the progress. Some contributions were extraordinary. My small bit was mostly a story I was blessed to write with TSCW Board Member Neil Baggett in 2019. Read it here.

Photo of TSCW Executive Director Marc Alessi as he prepared to commence the celebration

What's a Little Rain?

Once again, gratefully, the weather held off for the event. 

Still, there was some thunder. It’s always fun to see a professional friend’s face when he has an excuse to blast hard rock for professional reasons, especially such a feet on the ground, twinkling eyes to the stars kind of guy like TSCW Executive Director Marc Alessi. Here, it was especially entertaining as people’s heads cocked at the sound of AD-DC’s “Thunderstruck,” and then smiled at how incredibly apropos it was.

Tesla’s AC, you see, ultimately won the “great war of currents” over marketing genius Thomas Edison’s ruthless efforts to sell DC as the way to run the world. Tesla also had an…um….reputation for incredible blasts of power from the sky.

In addition to the fun music, tents held an array of models exhibiting fascinating revelations of Tesla’s time, as well as modern high tech virtual reality tours of his laboratory.

Science demonstrations to delight and mystify children of all ages

Of Science, Service and Power of the People

Tesla, when one strips all the legend aside, remains fantastic. We are still learning from him. What most were there to honor, though, ran deeper than Tesla’s intelligence or innovation to appreciate a man whose dream was to empower not just himself, but the world.

On beyond Tesla entirely, they were celebrating the power of people who care to make amazing things happen. 

There was gratitude offered by and to Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado who spoke of the $1.47M funded by New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), and Empire State Development Board Chairman Kevin Law, whose office gave $1.25M, as well as to the many local officials who worked to make that funding and more happen.

Attendees reminded me about YouTuber Matthew Inman, whose storytelling encouraged Elon Musk to donate $1M and inspired another 33,000 people in over 100 countries to contribute $1.34M and so much more. 

Personally, I was thrilled to see Neil Baggett again and to finally meet Jane Alcorn, who is considered the founder of the project. Jane helped Neil and I write that story about the “Great Electrician,” and I wanted to thank her  

I knew she had been among those central to making things happen since the property had been secured in 2013. I did not know Jane’s engagement began over 35 years ago when she was simply trying to find a new home for a science museum then housed in local schools.

Local officials getting their shovels in the ground.
Local officials getting their shovels in the ground.
Board Members and other key folk getting their turn...

Grateful Thanks

I was amazed by that and so many other things people there had to tell me. I knew I was among a great number of unassuming folk who do remarkable things. I wish I’d had more time to talk with them  

Jane, and so many other people there, elsewhere; seemly ordinary, clearly extraordinary have given more to make this day happen and to advance the idea of using science and creativity to the benefit of all humanity than any of us can ever really know. 

I wish them — and all who would resonate — all the very best going forward. Thank you  

Photo of Jane Alcorn. TSCW Founder.
TSCW Founder Jane Alcorn savoring a moment of triumph.

Read more about the event and support your local media:

Here’s a good Newsday Article by Carl MacGowan on the groundbreaking and overarching project

This Innovate LI Article by Tom Mariner gets a little bit into Tesla, the site and Executive Director Marc Alessi.

For background, here’s a really cool series of articles published in LI Business News in 2013 and 2014:

5/2/13 by Bernadette Starzee: Tesla Shoreham lab sold to science nonprofit

10/7/13 by Claude Solnick: Q&A: Jane Alcorn, Tesla Science Center

3/17/14 by Dan O’Regan: Follow Up: Jane Alcorn, Tesla Science Center

2/12/16 by Claude Solnick: Power to (and from) the People

This Wikipedia Article has tons of information:

Here’s a fascinating, award winning documentary: “Tower to the People”

Here’s the piece I wrote with Neil Baggett, “Nikola Tesla: The Man, The Myth, The Legacy”

Visit The TSCW Website for so much more.

Photo of Neil Baggett and Katheryn Laible
It was good to see Neil again!
A photo of a few of the bricks around the statue: "Rubak & Tabitha Das: 'One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane." "Be humble for you are made of earth. Be noble for you are made of stars" Serbian Proverb
One can enjoy the day just reading the clever bricks of generous, deeply inspired donors.
A small scale model of Tesla's incredible tower. Imagine if some day they could afford to build a full sized one? For now we will delight in this....