Tesla workshop to become lasting memorial

Three groups are raising funds to buy the work of the inventor of alternating current, in upstate New York...

Nikola Tesla electrified the world with the creation of alternating current and then fell into obscurity, dying penniless in 1943 on the 33rd floor of the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan. But despite the fact that his fame was eclipsed by other inventors, he was never entirely forgotten: a group of enthusiasts have long tried to give this eccentric genius what is his due.

Now, his devotees are making progress in their efforts to create a lasting memorial to Tesla, buying and restoring Wardenclyffe, his six-acre property located on the north shore of Long Island, which has its only shop remaining.

Three fundraising efforts are underway. All aim to transform the workshop into a museum or educational center, but each has a different way of raising the money - donations online, foreign contributions and philanthropy and in the form of a film that will memorialize Tesla, a daring visionary.

"Many people do not know who Tesla was," said filmmaker Joseph Sikorski. "We want to tell his story, a thriller that aims to attract the attention of young people."

The budget movie about Tesla, which will be entitled "Fragments from Olympus," included the purchase of Wardenclyffe. To attract investors, Sikorski, producer of corporate videos, filmed a five-minute teaser that features Leo Rossi, an actor who appeared in such films as "Analyze This" (1999) and "The Accused" (1988).

"The man was a true genius," said Rossi about Tesla in a video promoting the film. "Why aren't there more movies about people like him?"

The filmmakers said they had selected actress Sean Young as part of the cast ("Blade Runner" and "Wall Street") and cinematographer Howard J. Smith (the trilogy "The Matrix" and "Men in Black III"). The plot revolves around the challenges faced by the inventor and his triumphs, as well as the interest of the American government in what Tesla described as a death ray.

The 6-hectare site in Shoreham, has been for sale since February 2009. Today, Tesla fans are looking to buy the abandoned laboratory Tesla Agfa Corporation. The site is worth $1.6 million.

If the movie goes forward, the remaining funds to purchase Wardenclyffe will go to the Tesla Center for Science, a private group in Shoreham that is seeking to turn the laboratory in ruins into an educational memorial.

Another fundraising effort came this month, when the site The Oatmeal comics helped the site IndieGoGo, to collect nearly $1 million to buy the site. The effort must take place by late September.

Jane Alcorn, president of the Tesla Center for Science, said they were preparing to approach a group about buying Agfa, and that if everything happens as planned, the sale could yield up to nearly $850,000 in reimbursements from the State of New York.

"People seem to be quite excited to contribute," she said last week about the latest effort, noting that IndieGoGo donors lived in 102 different countries.

The last takeover offer involves a woman from Moscow of Serbian descent named Milka Kresoja. (Tesla was of Serbian origin and one of his sisters was named Milka.) She contacted Agfa and visited Wardenclyffe, but released few details about their plans.

In an email, she said that their intentions are "noble and sincere." Her plan, she said, is to use Wardenclyffe "not only as a reminder of what Tesla actually did for humanity," but as a way to inspire new advances.

Kresoja owns a restaurant in Moscow, the Blue Elephant, and practices a supposedly mystical healing method known as "Tesla Metamorphosis."   She claims that the therapeutic rays can travel long distances to cure cancer and even birth defects. Kresoja helps teach seminars around the world, which can cost U.S. $1,840.

Fans of Tesla in Long Island seem wary of the effort abroad, worried that it could transform the former laboratory into a themed restaurant or a mystical paradise - or both. "I would like if a local group bought it," said John P. O'Hara, a real estate agent in New York.

Translated from the Portuguese version by:

Lisa Karpova

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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey