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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Read more about the event and support your local media:
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
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.