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Radio Pioneer at Shoreham

Footnotes to Long Island History

Radio Pioneer at Shoreham

September 13, 1951

by

Thomas R. Bayles


Caption:  Pioneering in radio was what Nikola Tesla, inventor and electrician, intended when he built the huge tower and laboratory building shown above.  The structures were built in 1902.  Through a remarkable coincidence, Tesla’s tower was within two miles of the present site of the RCA broadcasting transmitters at Rocky Point.

Radio broadcasting was visualized several years before it was actually put into successful operation, by Nikola Tesla, an inventor and electrician who experimented for some time at Shoreham.

He was born in 1857 in Austria Hungary and studied engineering in the scientific schools in his own country and worked for some time as engineer for the Austrian Government.

In 1884 Tesla came to America and was employed in the Edison plant at Orange, N.J., and later at Pittsburgh.  He devoted much of his time to experimental work and research.  He anticipated the radio and believed that electric energy could be broadcast so that one would only have to tune in for electric light and power.

During the winter of 1902 Tesla started construction at Shoreham of a huge tower and experimental power house, just across from the railroad station.

The tower was 200 feet high with a stairway leading to the platform near the top.  Below the tower was a well 120 feet deep and 12 feet square, which was cased its entire depth with 8-inch timbers.  A staircase led down to the bottom where there were four tunnels nearly 100 feet in length.  The tower was constructed mostly of wood, although 50 tons of iron and steel, and 50,000 bolts were used.

Nearby was erected the experimental plant, which was a brick building 100 feet square, and contained a boiler room, engine and dynamo room, machine shop and laboratory.  Electrical equipment of various kinds was furnished by the Westinghouse company.

What Tesla intended to do with this was the question that perplexed the people living in that part of the town.

The height of the tower and its peculiar dome-shaped top led to the belief that Tesla intended to utilize the sun’s rays to generate electricity.

Nothing much was ever learned to Tesla’s plans and experiments, everything being conducted under great secrecy.  He worked on the theory that messages could be transmitted between any points on the globe, using the earth as a medium, and many people believed that this was the reason for the deep well under the tower.  No one was ever able to find out from Tesla what all the machinery in the power house was for.  Visitors were not welcome and were told politely to keep away.

Tesla was a man of great vision, and his experiments and inventions were really the foundation of wireless, although Marconi received most of the honor and credit for its development.  The tower was dismantled during World War I, and the brick building was finally converted into a factory for making film.

It seems singular that within two miles of Tesla’s experiment station the Radio Corporation of America years later established at Rocky Point one of the most powerful broadcasting stations in the world.

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