Wardenclyffe Tower

From Academic Kids

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Wardenclyffe Tower located in Shoreham, Long Island, New York. The 94 ft. by 94 ft. brick building was designed by architect Stanford White. The tower structure was completed in 1904. The transceiver was never fully built due to economic problems.

Nikola Tesla's Wardenclyffe Tower (also known as the Tesla Tower) was named after James S. Warden, a western lawyer and banker who had purchased land in Shoreham, Long Island. The area is in close proximity to Manhattan. Here he built a resort community known as Wardenclyffe-On-Sound. Warden believed that with the implementation of Tesla's World System a "Radio City" would arise in the area, and offered Tesla 200 acres (81 hectares) of land close to a railway line on which to build his wireless communications tower and laboratory facility.



In 1900, Nikola Tesla began planning the Wardenclyffe Tower facility, and in 1901, construction began on the land near Long Island Sound. The architect Stanford White designed the Wardenclyffe facility main building. Funding for Tesla's project was provided by influential industrialists and other venture capitalists. The project was also initially backed by the wealthy J. P. Morgan (he had a substantial investment in the facility, initially investing a sum in the range of $100,000 to $150,000).

In June 1902, Tesla moved his laboratory operations from his Houston Street laboratory to Wardenclyffe. However, in 1903, when the tower structure was near completion, it was still not yet functional due to a design error. When Morgan wanted to know "Where can I put the meter?", Tesla had no answer. Tesla's vision of free power did not agree with Morgan's worldview. Construction costs eventually exceeded the money provided by Morgan, and additional financiers were reluctant to come forth. By July 1904, Morgan (and the other investors) finally decided they would not provide any additional financing. Morgan also encouraged other investors to avoid the project. In May 1905, Tesla's patents on alternating current motors and other methods of power transmission expired, halting royalty payments and causing a severe reduction of funding to the Wardenclyffe Tower. In an attempt to find alternative funding, Tesla advertised the services of the Wardenclyffe facility, but he met with little success. By this time, Tesla had also designed the Tesla turbine at Wardenclyffe and produced Tesla coils for sale to various businesses. By 1905, since Tesla could not find any more backers, most of the site's activity had to be shut down. Employees were laid off in 1906, but parts of the building remained in use until 1907.

In 1908, the property was foreclosed for the first time and Tesla then procured a second mortgage from the proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, George C. Boldt. The facility was partially abandoned around 1911, the tower structure eventually becoming dilapidated and disheveled. Between 1912 and 1915, Tesla's finances unraveled, and when the funders wanted to know how they were going to recapture their investments, Tesla did not give sufficient answers. Newspaper headlines labeled it "Tesla's million-dollar folly." The facility's main building was broken into and vandalized around this time.

The Wardenclyffe's failure may have contributed to the mental breakdown Tesla experienced in this period. Coupled to the personal tragedy of Wardenclyffe was the previous 1895 unexplained fire in Tesla's Houston Street laboratory. In this fire, he lost many of his notes and documents. This produced a state of severe depression for Tesla. In 1915, legal ownership of the Wardenclyffe property was transferred to George Boldt for a $20,000 debt.

Demolition and salvaging of the tower occurred in 1917. However, the main building still stands today. Tesla was not in New York during the tower's destruction. George Boldt wished to make the property available for sale. New York papers reported that the tower had been destroyed by order of the government to prevent its use by foreign agents. In 1917, the United States government may have aided the destruction of the Wardenclyffe Tower, ostensibly because it was believed it could provide a navigational landmark for German submarines. The facts neither support nor discount either claim. On April 20, 1922 Tesla lost an appeal of judgment versus his backers in the second foreclosure. This effectively locked Tesla out of any future development of the facility.

In 1925, the property ownership was transferred to Walter L. Johnson of Brooklyn. On March 6, 1939, Plantacres, Inc. purchased the facility's land and subsequently leased it to Peerless Photo Products, Inc. (which is still established on a portion of that land).

On February 14, 1967, the nonprofit public benefit corporation Brookhaven Town Historical Trust was established. It selected the Wardenclyffe facility to be designated as an historic site and as the first site to be preserved by the Trust on March 3, 1967.

In the month of July in 1976, a plaque from Yugoslavia with an inscription was installed by the Brookhaven Town Historic trust near the entrance of the facility. It reads:


Also, in 1976, an application was filed to have the main building listed in the New York State Register of Historic Places and National Register of Historic Places. It failed to get approval. In 1994, a campaign was again started requesting the placement of the Wardenclyffe facility on the National Register of Historic Places. By October 1994, a second Application for formal nomination was undertaken which may result in placement of the Wardenclyffe on both the New York State Registers of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation conducted inspections which established that the facility does meet New York's criteria for historic designation.

The present owners of the existing Wardenclyffe facility is AGFA-Gevaert.

Facility grounds

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Wardenclyffe Tesla Tower : Building in foreground and tower stucture with dome frame in back.

Wardenclyffe is located near the Shoreham Post Office and Shoreham Fire House on Route 25A in Shoreham, Long Island, New York. Wardenclyffe was divided into two main sections. The tower, which was located in the back, and the main building compose the entire facility grounds.

The tower was 187 feet (57 meters) tall and 68 feet (20.7 meters)in diameter. It had a supporting structure that was built of wood. It had a 55-ton steel (some report it was a better conducting material, such as copper) hemispherical structure at the top (referred to as a cupola). The tower was designed by one of Stanford White's associates. The design of this structure was such as to allow each piece to be taken out if needed and replaced as necessary. Beneath the tower, a shaft sank 120 feet (36.6 meters) into the ground. Sixteen iron pipes were placed at the depth of 300 feet (94.4 meters) so that the telluric currents of the Earth could be transceived by them.

The main building occupied the rest of the facility grounds. The main building included Tesla's laboratory and other assorted devices for the facility. Inside the main building, there were electromechanical devices, electrical generators, electrical transformers, glass blowing equipment, a machine shop, X-ray devices, Tesla coils, a remote controlled boat, cases with bulbs and tubes, an instrument room, wires, cables, a library, and a office. It was constructed in the style of the Italian Renaissance (referred to as the "Shingle style").

Theories of operation

Various theories exist on how Tesla intended to achieve the goals of the facility, from the use of radio (such as a 200 kW wireless system) to putting a charge on the Earth itself. Wardenclyffe in operation may have allowed secure multichannel transceiving of information and may have allowed universal navigation, time synchronization, and a global location system. Tesla believed that energy could be efficiently transmitted from the facility via longitudinal "non-Hertzian" (or maxwellian) waves. The site was to be used by Nikola Tesla as part of an experiment in creating a distribution system for electricity that would allow power to be transmitted over any distance without wires. This is why Tesla designed Wardenclyffe in a different manner than modern (or as Tesla termed them, "Hertzian") broadcasting stations.

According to Tesla's writings, the facility had a dual purpose. Tesla had planned more than what he initially revealed to his investors. His station could not only transceive communication signals, but also transmit electrical power. The site's purpose was global wireless telecommunications and broadcasting. The facility was meant to be the start of a national (and later global) system of towers broadcasting power to users as radio waves. Instead of supplying electricity through a current grid system, users would simply "receive" power through antennas on their roofs. At the time the power grid was quite limited in terms of who it reached and the Tower represented a potential way to significantly reduce the cost of "electrifying" the countryside.

The plant was built for trans-Atlantic wireless telecommunications and radio broadcasting. Tesla also intended to use the facility to perform experiments, "with the transmission of electrical energy for power and lighting purposes by wireless. . . ." A second plant was to be constructed on the southern coast of England.

"It is intended to give practical demonstrations of these principles with the plant illustrated. As soon as completed, it will be possible for a business man in New York to dictate instructions, and have them instantly appear in type at his office in London or elsewhere. He will be able to call up, from his desk, and talk to any telephone subscriber on the globe, without any change whatever in the existing equipment. An inexpensive instrument, not bigger than a watch, will enable its bearer to hear anywhere, on sea or land, music or song, the speech of a political leader, the address of an eminent man of science, or the sermon of an eloquent clergyman, delivered in some other place, however distant. In the same manner any picture, character, drawing, or print can be transferred from one to another place. Millions of such instruments can be operated from but one plant of this kind. More important than all of this, however, will be the transmission of power, without wires, which will be shown on a scale large enough to carry conviction. "["The Future of the Wireless Art," WIRELESS TELEGRAPHY & TELEPHONY, Walter W. Massie & Charles R. Underhill, 1908, pp. 67-71]

In overall appearance, the system looks similar to a very large Tesla coil. There is some evidence that Wardenclyffe might have used extremely low frequency signals combined with a higher frequency (RF) signal. Powered by an industrial alternator, the tower was apparently intended to inject large amounts of energy into a natural Earth circuit, using the Earth as the transmission medium. In various writings, Tesla explained that the Earth itself would behave as a resonant LC circuit that could be electrically excited at predescribed frequencies. However, Earth resonance would be of a very low frequency (about 7 Hz) which would utilize Schumann resonance. Alternatively, a surface or ground wave, similar to the Zenneck wave could have been utilized. Others believe that earth currents were to be utilized. In any event, Tesla firmly believed that Wardenclyffe would permit wireless transmission and reception across large distances with negligible losses. However, modern analyses seem to indicate that Tesla's system would introduce significant losses that would be considerably higher than "hard wired" power distribution systems.

Tesla called his wireless technique the "disturbed charge of ground and air method." In practice, the transmitter electrically influences both the earth and the space above it. He made a point of describing the process as being essentially the same as passing electricity through a wire by conduction. In his system one of the conductors is the earth itself. Compared with, say, copper wire, one might not think earth would make a very good electrical conductor. According to Tesla, the planetís large cross-sectional area provides a low resistance path for the flow of earth currents. The greatest losses are apt to occur at the points where the transmitting and receiving stations are connected with the ground. This is why Tesla stated,

"You see the underground work is one of the most expensive parts of the tower. In this system that I have invented it is necessary for the machine to get a grip of the earth, otherwise it cannot shake the earth. It has to have a grip on the earth so that the whole of this globe can quiver, and to do that it is necessary to carry out a very expensive construction." [Nikola Tesla On His Work With Alternating Currents and Their Application to Wireless Telegraphy,Telephony and Transmission of Power, p. 203]

To close the circuit, in theory, a second path would be established between the plantsí elevated high-voltage terminals through rarified upper level atmospheric strata. The connection would be made by electrostatic induction or conduction through plasma. [Some have suggested the transmitter could have been used as a weapon.]


"As soon as [the Wardenclyffe facility is] completed, it will be possible for a business man in New York to dictate instructions, and have them instantly appear in type at his office in London or elsewhere. He will be able to call up, from his desk, and talk to any telephone subscriber on the globe, without any change whatever in the existing equipment. An inexpensive instrument, not bigger than a watch, will enable its bearer to hear anywhere, on sea or land, music or song, the speech of a political leader, the address of an eminent man of science, or the sermon of an eloquent clergyman, delivered in some other place, however distant. In the same manner any picture, character, drawing, or print can be transferred from one to another place ..." - Nikola Tesla, "The Future of the Wireless Art", Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony, 1908, pg. 67-71.
"It is not a dream, it is a simple feat of scientific electrical engineering, only expensive — blind, faint-hearted, doubting world! [...] Humanity is not yet sufficiently advanced to be willingly led by the discoverer's keen searching sense. But who knows? Perhaps it is better in this present world of ours that a revolutionary idea or invention instead of being helped and patted, be hampered and ill-treated in its adolescence — by want of means, by selfish interest, pedantry, stupidity and ignorance; that it be attacked and stifled; that it pass through bitter trials and tribulations, through the strife of commercial existence. So do we get our light. So all that was great in the past was ridiculed, condemned, combatted, suppressed — only to emerge all the more powerfully, all the more triumphantly from the struggle." – Nikola Tesla (at the end of his dream for Wardenclyffe) [Wardenclyffe — A Forfeited Dream]

Wardenclyffe Tower in Popular Culture

The symbol of the former radio station Atlantic 252 resembles Wardenclyffe Tower.

See also

Related Tesla Patents

  • "Means for Generating Electric Currents," U.S. Patent No. 514,168, February 6, 1894
  • "Electrical Transformer," Patent No. 593,138, November 2, 1897
  • "Method Of Utilizing Radiant Energy," Patent No. 685,958 November 5, 1901
  • "Method of Signaling," U.S. Patent No. 723,188, Mar. 17, 1903
  • "System of Signaling," U.S. Patent No. 725,605, Apr. 14, 1903
  • "Apparatus for Transmitting Electrical Energy," Jan. 18, 1902, U.S. Patent 1,119,732, Dec. 1, 1914

See also: List of Tesla patents

References and external links


  • Rather, John, "Tesla, a Little-Recognized Genius, Left Mark in Shoreham". The New York Times. Long Island Weekly Desk.

Views of the facility

Web sites

Other Publication

  • Bass, Robert W., "Self-Sustained Non-Hertzian Longitudal Wave Oscillations as a Rigorous Solution of Maxwell's Equations for Electromagnetic Radiation". Inventek Enterprises, Inc., Las Vegas, Nevada.
  • Tesla, Nikola, "On the Transmission of Electricity Without Wires". Electrical World and Engineer, March 5, 1904.
  • "Boundless Space: A Bus Bar". The Electrical World, Vol 32, No. 19.
  • Massie, Walter Wentworth, "Wireless telegraphy and telephony popularly explained ". New York, Van Nostrand. 1908.de:Wardenclyffe Tower

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