The History of Wardenclyffe
In 1901, Tesla purchased 200 acres on Long Island’s north shore from James Warden. These 200 acres were part of an 1,800 acre potato farm along what is today Route 25A in Shoreham, NY. The site became known as Wardenclyffe, after the former owner. Here, Tesla established what would become his only remaining laboratory building. Previously, after emigrating to the United States in 1884, Tesla had worked on all of his major projects at various laboratory sites. These included Pittsburgh, PA; New York City, NY; Orange, NJ; Colorado Springs, CO; and finally Wardenclyffe, NY. In April, 1901, the Wardenclyffe Post Office was established in the town; in 1906 the town became the Village of Shoreham.
The purpose of the Wardenclyffe laboratory was the establishment of a wireless telegraphy plant. The prestigious architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White was contracted to design the laboratory and transmitter tower (187 feet high above ground and 120 feet deep below ground level). Stanford White became the architect for the building.
Tesla’s plan had the initial backing of the financier J. P. Morgan. The red brick laboratory building can still be seen on the north side of Route 25A between the intersection of Randall Road and the Shoreham Fire Department.
During the last week of July 1903, residents around the Shoreham site experienced what was to be the only testing of Tesla’s equipment at this facility. Several days after these tests, his dream was destroyed when creditors from Westinghouse confiscated his heavier equipment for nonpayment for services rendered. In addition, James Warden sued Tesla for nonpayment of back taxes. In 1917, the 187-foot tower was destroyed by dynamite explosion as ordered by the U.S. government. It was demolished the same year by the Smiley Steel Company.
In 1939, the Peerless Photo Company purchased the property to manufacture emulsions for photographic film and paper. Additional buildings were constructed. In 1969, it became Agfa-Gevaert, Inc., at that time a division of the Bayer Corporation. In 1987, manufacturing ended, and the facility was closed down. Since then, the entire facility has remained dormant. It is noteworthy that, in 1967, the laboratory building was the first to be considered for listing on the Town of Brookhaven registry of historic sites.
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