Tesla Science Center 'Seems To Have Withstood' Fire: Director

SHOREHAM, NY — In misty drizzle Wednesday morning, despite a raging fire that brought scores of firefighters to tackle the blaze, the tower at the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe remained standing, a beacon of hope to a community that had been devastated by news of the fire.

Marc Alessi, executive director of the Tesla Science Center, released a statement Wednesday just before noon: “As many of you are aware, our beloved Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe Laboratory was struck by a serious fire last night. While the fire is largely contained, occasional flare-ups occur, and local fire departments remain diligently on the site to manage these situations,” he said.

More than 100 firefighters from 11 departments responded to the blaze, “demonstrating extraordinary courage and determination throughout the night. To these heroes, we owe a debt of gratitude beyond words. We are immensely grateful for their commitment and bravery,” Alessi said.

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Given the ongoing activity, Alessi said he “strongly urged” everyone to avoid visiting the site for their own safety and to allow emergency services to operate unimpeded.

“We promise to keep you informed through regular updates on our website and social media channels,” he said.

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The full extent of the damage is yet to be determined, Alessi said.

“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 Suffolk County Department of Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Services, will conduct a thorough assessment. Their insights will be crucial in shaping our ongoing plans to restore and rebuild this historic landmark.”

He added: “It brings a sense of relief to share that the structural integrity of the building, dating back to 1901, seems to have withstood the ordeal. This resilience is a testament to its original robust construction and durability.”

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Alessi also spoke to the outpouring of concern at the news of the fire.

“We recognize the profound emotional impact this incident has had on our community and on our supporters from around the world,” Alessi said. “Rest assured, our commitment to transparency remains steadfast. We will provide accurate, timely information, countering any misinformation that may arise. It is also important to note that, while we were poised to begin a significant renovation and restoration project, construction had not yet commenced, sparing us from additional complexities at this stage.”

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“Your support and understanding in these challenging times are invaluable. Together, we will navigate this crisis and emerge stronger, honoring the legacy of Nikola Tesla and the spirit of innovation, determination, and resiliency that this center embodies,” he said.

Firefighters at the scene around 7:30 a.m. told Patch that the fire had reignited, with smoke seen billowing and flames reportedly seen near windows and “hot pockets” causing the fire to start up again a number of times throughout the night. Firefighters extinguished the flareups.

Residents expressed gratitude that, hopefully, something of the iconic location had been saved. “I went as soon as it was light enough to be able to see,” said resident Kathleen Scharmberg. “I was so afraid that it was going to be nothing but rubble. I felt a bit of hope and relief when I saw the chimney and walls were still standing.”

The fire ripped through the Tesla Science Center Tuesday, police said.

According to Suffolk County police, the call came in at 4:49 p.m. regarding a fire at a building at the intersection of Robinson and Tesla Street in East Shoreham. Police could not confirm any additional information.

Residents were heartbroken at the blaze; the Tesla Science Center is the site of scientist Nikola Tesla’s last remaining laboratory.

“Tesla’s lab is fully engulfed. What an awful fire. So much history. I can smell it from here. Absolutely devastating,” said Tracey Farrell.

The Shoreham Fire Co. #3 confirmed the fire but when asked about the extent of the damage, a representative said that had not yet been determined.

Renovations had been ongoing at the site.

In April, Governor Kathy Hochul announced the groundbreaking for the $20 million redevelopment of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe. The 16-acre site is a U.S. National Historic Registered landmark and location of famed inventor Tesla’s last existing laboratory, she said.

The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, Hochul said, is envisioned as an international destination for visitors interested in Tesla’s legacy and science, technology, and innovation. The project’s $4.5 million phase one includes the construction of the Eugene Sayan Visitor Center and the demolition of approximately 110,000 square feet of unused building. Empire State Development is supporting the transformation of the historic site with $1.25 million in capital grants, she said.

“Nikola Tesla’s visionary ideas and inventions have served as a catalyst for scientific progress, and his lab stands as a testament to his innovative spirit,” Hochul said. “By preserving this historic site, we help ensure that future generations can learn from his achievements and be inspired to pursue groundbreaking discoveries of their own.”

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