Tesla is as known for what he couldn’t manage to accomplish as for what he did, and his admirers are doing their best to save the site of his ballsiest, most outlandish failure.
After his work on alternating current made him a rich, famous, and respected electrical inventor, Tesla had no trouble securing funds (about $US3 million in today’s money) for what was seen as the next frontier: Wireless transmission. Tesla built a massive tower on a site he named Wardenclyffe, in southern New York, to experiment with the beginnings of what would become radio waves.
But when he was beaten to the punch by Italian Marconi (here we can shake our fists, a la Colbert, and yell: MARCONI!!!!), he decided he was actually going to transmit wireless energy, not just information, out to those who couldn’t afford it. His investors, seeing no trail to profit, abandoned him, and as turned out, his tower was in no way capable of doing any such thing in the first place.
Wardenclyffe is a maze of Tesla lore; giant batteries without documentation, rumours of extensive secret tunnels surrounding the site, and half-finished experiments are all part of its now-dilapidated charm. It’s fallen into disrepair in recent years, and is currently littered with the throwaways of damn teenagers with their damn beer cans, but now with the possibility that the property could be sold as mere real estate, Tesla fanatics are up in arms.
Tesla’s admirers stress that this 16-acre estate is his most important workshop, and that any other fate but a museum is an insult to the ambitious genius’s memory. The company that currently owns it is open to such a change, but is not in a position to simply donate the site. The site seems fascinating, and we really do hope somebody steps up and gives it the new life as a museum it deserves. [New York Times, image courtesy of New York Times]