Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tesla's Wardenclyffe Tower, Shoreham, LI, NY

Well, you can hardly see me, but I'm here at the break in the fence.  In back of me stands the main building known as Wardenclyffe, Nikola Tesla's failed experiment to provide free electricity through wireless power.

The tower was named for James S. Warden who bought the property and offered 200 acres to Tesla which would house the laboratory and the wireless communication tower.   

Tesla planned out Wardenclyffe in 1898 and construction began on the main building in 1901 by famed architect Stanford White. The tower was designed by an associate of White's, W.D Crow.  Originally backed by millionaires J.P. Morgan and John Jacob Astor, Tesla moved all his equipment from his Houston Street lab in NY to Long Island in 1902. By 1904, as the project neared completion, last minute changes to the tower were required as it was still not functional. This caused construction costs to skyrocket and went far beyond the budget that was set by Morgan. When he realized that there was no money to be gained, Morgan pulled out of the project, blackballed Tesla and discouraged other financiers from contributing to this project and any other project of Tesla's in the future.  
Looking for alternative funding, Tesla promoted the services of Wardenclyffe, trying in vain to attract people to take notice of his other inventions. All his efforts had met with little or no success. On top of this, his patents expired causing all his royalties to stop. With no more backers and no money coming in, the project was shut down in 1905. Employees were laid off in 1906, but the building still remained open until 1907. In 1908, the property was foreclosed.  In 1911, Tesla was able to produce a new mortgage from George Boldt, proprietor of the Waldorf Astoria. By this time, the building has been partially abandoned and the tower had deteriorated.  An investigation into his finances from 1912 to 1915 caused Tesla to lose the property to Mr. Boldt and his project was ridiculed.  The tower was finally destroyed in 1917 to be used for scrap metal.

In 1925, Tesla tried again when Boldt put the property up for sale, but lost his appeal in a second foreclosure.  This would lock Tesla out of any future development of Wardenclyffe.  The property was sold off and leased in 1939 to Peerless Photo Products and was then bought up by AGFA Corp in 1969.  They remained at the site until 1992 when the facility closed.  The site is currently undergoing cleanup of waste that resulted when it was still Peerless Photo, but was financed by AGFA who are the current owners.

Rob had included this site on a Mini Cooper Oddities Tour in 2006.  Here is a picture from the front of the building and another taken from the side on our test run.

As we neared the ruins this time, we found that AGFA had put the land up for sale yet again.  We did not know the date until we read the Wikipedia article that I have included in the my usual links at the bottom of the page.  In 1976, Wardenclyffe Tower was nominated to be made a National Historic Site, but is being held up for a number of reasons.  As of 2010, the site is crumbling and overgrown as you can see by the pic below

This is the partially finished Wardenclyffe Tower in 1902 from the Wikipedia article.


update  January 1, 2014

Revisited Wardenclyffe and saw some dramatic changes. Now called the Tesla Science Center, supporters from all over Long Island and Serbia have made this clean up possible.   The Christmas tree circle mark the area where the tower once stood.  A statue of Nikola Tesla stands inside the gated iron fence.   The woman in the picture, Annie Lipton, took a long drive to visit this particular building, a Long Island oddity.  Rob, Sue and I give credit to all those who took part in saving this beautiful building and the property it sits on.  We now eagerly await the opening of what looks to be a interesting and wonderful museum.  

Here are the links:
 This is a great video on Nikola Tesla.  Enjoy!  It's not the best quality, but stick with it


  1. Clyde, you really do go to some interesting places!

  2. Wow, you sure do know the history of some great places, Clyde! I always look forward to learning more each time I read your blog!

  3. here is a great edition of Modern Marvels called Mad Electricity (also filmed at Wardenclyffe)