The campaign to save Nikola Tesla’s former lab in Shoreham where the inventor once hoped to provide the world with free energy has lit up in the last couple of weeks, thanks to an Internet fundraising initiative.
“We’re almost at a million dollars! Can you believe it!” said Jane Alcorn, president of Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, who has been spearheading the measure.
The money, about $15,000 shy of $1 million, would enable the nonprofit group to acquire the property from its current owner Agfa Corp., which had used the facility to manufacture photo products. Agfa is asking $1.6 million for the 16-acre site.
“We’re excited to see all that activity and we hope it results in a transaction that benefits all of the stakeholders, which includes Friends of Science East,” Chris Santomassimo, a spokesman for the Agfa Corp. told the Press. “Ultimately our goal is to sell the property for the best value that we can get.”
The online fund took off about a week ago when Matthew Inman, who runs The Oatmeal blog, issued a clarion call to Tesla supporters, dubbing it: “Operation Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum.”
The Tesla Science Center had to raise “at least $850,000” to qualify for a New York State reimbursement grant, Alcorn explained. More money will be needed to complete the acquisition and the restoration.
Helping Alcorn’s group over the threshold was Babylon-based independent filmmaker Joe Sikorski, whose screenplay treatment for his Tesla film, “Fragments from Olympus,” has won accolades.
“The Oatmeal got involved and started this amazing campaign,” said Sikorski. “We wanted to support this astounding effort, so we used all our film seed money, a lot of my own, and raised even more from a few devoted supporters to scrape together the last tier they had set up, which was $33,333—because Tesla was obsessed with the number 3!”
Now, Sikorski has to start from scratch to raise money for his movie, but he’s thrilled that the site may be saved.
“He’s taken a leap of faith with us,” says Alcorn. “He’s been just outrageously wonderful. He felt it was important to see it go over that $850,000 threshold…. By doing so, I think he inspired a lot of other people to give—they got excited. Let’s see how far we can go!”
Sparking the fund-raising frenzy was a report that a Serbian woman in Moscow has expressed an interest in the property, too, but it hasn’t been formalized, according to Agfa’s spokesman Chris Santomassimo.
Alcorn told the Press that “we’re hopeful that whatever offer we place will be seriously considered. And we hope we are successful in purchasing the property.”
She didn’t know what the other woman’s intentions are, but noted: “We are speaking to our lawyer about drafting a letter of intent. We’re telling them we intend to place an offer.”
Those interested in making donations to nonprofit Friends of Science Center East, Inc. should contact indiegogo.com/teslamuseum or Tesla Science Center, P.O. Box 552, Shoreham, NY 11786.