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Tesla lab saved, but more work to go

Millions of dollars more will be needed to clean up Tesla's former lab and turn it into a science-education museum.
Millions of dollars more will be needed to clean up Tesla's former lab and turn it into a science-education museum.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nonprofit group has purchased former lab of inventor Nikola Tesla
  • After years, purchase was aided by drive by "The Oatmeal" creator Matthew Inman
  • Group seeks to turn the ground-breaker's former lab into a science museum
  • Inman promises Tesla coil-fried sandwiches at upcoming fundraiser

(CNN) -- Through some highly successful crowdfunding and skillful negotiation, the last remaining laboratory of futurist inventor Nikola Tesla is now in the hands of a nonprofit group that wants to preserve the site and make it a museum honoring "the father of the electric age."

The Tesla Science Center announced that it's completed the purchase of the building and land of Wardenclyffe Tower in Shoreham, New York, after trying for more than 18 years. The original asking price was $1.6 million, but the deal closed for $850,000.

Last year, the nonprofit made a plea on the Internet for donors. Tesla fan Matthew Inman, creator of the Web cartoon "The Oatmeal," started an IndieGoGo crowdfunding effort irreverently titled "Let's Build A Goddamn Tesla Museum."

Fans of Tesla's responded, raising more than $1 million in about a week before wrapping up with $1.37 million.

The Wardenclyffe Tower was to be where Tesla realized his dream of developing wireless communications and clean, free energy for the world. It was never completed, and the building was later used by a photo processing company, leaving the area tainted with chemicals.

Born in what is now Croatia, Nikola Tesla is called the \
Born in what is now Croatia, Nikola Tesla is called the "father of the electrical age" for his work and ideas.

The money left over after the purchase will be used to clean up and renovate the property. The ultimate goal, an interactive science museum honoring Tesla, will require much more cash.

"Now begin the next important steps in raising the money needed to restore the historic laboratory," Mary Daum, treasurer of the Tesla Science Center, said in a statement. "We estimate that we will need to raise about $10 million to create a science learning center and museum worthy of Tesla and his legacy. We invite everyone who believes in science education and in recognizing Tesla for his many contributions to society to join in helping to make this dream a reality."

On his website, Inman thanked donors and said an event is planned this summer in Shoreham to help finance the science center. Musical performances, lectures, interactive exhibits and tours -- with Inman as one of the guides -- are planned during the two-day event.

Inman also plans a special Tesla demonstration during the event.

"I own a fully functional Tesla coil cannon and I plan to BBQ some Sriracha-bacon sandwiches by shooting them with its 20,000 volt electric arc, so the event will be both scientific and delicious," Inman wrote on his site. "Again, we're shooting for this summer but we haven't pinned down a date yet."

The Tesla Science Center is also calling on volunteers to come out Saturday to assist in the cleanup along the perimeter of the site. Interested people can sign up using VolunteerSpot.com, which is helping organize the event.

Largely forgotten for decades in the shadows of inventors like Thomas Edison, Tesla has emerged in recent years as a sort of unsung hero among the science-minded. Tesla foresaw the need for wireless transmissions in the late 1800s -- a hundred years before anyone picked up a cell phone.

But Tesla's work lost much of its financial backing after inventor Guglielmo Marconi sent radio signals across the Atlantic Ocean, and the lab site was lost in 1915.

Now, the nonprofit group hopes to soon be welcoming visitors who can understand and appreciate all the accomplishments and ideas envisioned by the inventor.

"This is a major milestone in our almost two-decade effort to save this historically and scientifically significant site. We have been pursuing this dream with confidence that we would eventually succeed," said Gene Genova, vice president of the Tesla Science Center. "We are very excited to be able to finally set foot on the grounds where Tesla walked and worked."

More information about fundraising events and the Wardenclyffe site can be found on the Tesla Science Center website, Facebook page and Twitter feed.

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