Fire engulfs Tesla Science Center in Shoreham

Close to a dozen area fire departments and more than 100 firefighters responded Tuesday night to a blaze in Shoreham at the Tesla Science Center, home of Wardenclyffe, the last standing laboratory of famed inventor Nikola Tesla.

Firefighters battling Tuesday night’s blaze (video credit: Daniel Franc)

The cause of the fire, which started around 5 p.m., is unknown at this time. The site has been undergoing renovations for years, including a restoration of the chimney and cupola that began in 2020. An Oct. 26 Tesla Science Center social media post shared that historical architects Thaler Reilly Wilson Architecture and Preservation, LLP have been on site in recent months as part of the restoration effort. Demolition of non-historic warehouse structures on the property was stated as in-progress. Status of the project was clarified in a statement issued today from Marc Alessi, Executive Director of the science center. “While we were poised to begin a significant renovation and restoration project, construction had not yet commenced,” the statement read.

“The full extent of the damage is yet to be determined,” Mr. Alessi continued in the statement posted on the organization’s website just before noon Wednesday morning. “In the coming days, our site engineer, historical architect and structural engineer, along with the Suffolk County Police Department, the Brookhaven Town Fire Marshal and the County’s Services, will conduct a thorough assessment. Their insights will be crucial in shaping our ongoing plans to restore and rebuild this historic landmark.”

The Telsa Science Center at Wardenclyffe is a not-for-profit organization devoted to preserving the legacy of Nikola Tesla and developing the site of the electricity pioneer’s last standing laboratory into a museum and global science center. The group holds fundraising events on site and seeks to educate the public on Tesla’s work. Their annual gala celebrating Tesla’s legacy and Wardenclyffe’s future was held Nov. 16 in St. James.

According to biographical information offered on the science center’s website, Nikola Tesla is a Serbian-born scientist and inventor whose work in electrical and mechanical engineering led to global advancements in wi-fi, radio, remote controls, motors and more. He is well known for designing the alternating current (A/C) electrical systems in use today. He came to the United States in 1884 at age 28 to work with Thomas Edison. At the time of his death in 1943, he held more than 300 patents. Over the years, many of his laboratories burned to the ground as a result of his experiments with electricity.