A Tesla Tour of NYC

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A couple of weeks back, I went to Manhattan with my family and organized a scaled-down version of a ‘Geek’s Tour’.  Now, I’m fully aware that this tour will be sorely lacking for many, many things related to geeks, but there a specific theme: Tesla.
No, not the car company.
Nikola Tesla, the creator of modern electricity as we know, the AC Induction Motor, business partner to many, especially George Westinghouse, and overall genius that time almost forgot.

Nikola Tesla first arrived in America in 1884 with about 4 cents in his pocket.

Over the years, he went from extreme poverty to unbelievable wealth, only to die a pauper.

Without Tesla, we wouldn’t have electricity as we know it today.  If Edison, JP Morgan and others had their way, electricity would have been a luxury commodity that only the few would have.

This is a whole other topic, which I hope to chat about some day.

Manhattan was Tesla’s destination, a change from Europe and home to the world’s greatest and forward-looking industrialists, especially Thomas Edison, a man he admired.  Until Edison screwed him over.

Even though Manhattan today is a manic, insanely busy town, it was relatively easy to slow things down a bit and imagine a world without, with and without Tesla again as we explored a few of the locations.

We visited 9 locations in Manhattan:

  1. 89 Liberty Street, home to Tesla’s first lab
  2. 175 Grand Street, in what’s known now as Little Italy, site of his second lab
  3. 49 West 27th Street, Gerlach Hotel, his first home
  4. Broadway & 6th, home to Delmonico’s, where he ate nightly while he had money to spare
  5. 33-35 South Fifth Avenue, LaGuardia Place, site of his third lab
  6. 46 East Houston Street, location of Lab IV
  7. ‘Nikola Tesla Corner’, at West 40th Street & Avenue of the Americas (just near Bryant Park), where Tesla made a daily routine out of feeding pigeons
  8. 40th Street West, between 5th and 6t Avenue, Engineer’s Club, where Tesla presented his plan to implement Alternating Current (AC) in 1888, changing industrial history forever
  9. 34th & 8th, Hotel New Yorker, Room 3327, where he spent his final days talking to pigeons and wondering what happened to humanity.

I’m sure we could have added more, such as sites famous to Edison, but really don’t feel that loathsome man deserves anyone’s reverence, let alone time for a detour while on vacation.

Some spots that I missed:

  1. Central Park, where he tested his wireless and radio controlled boats and machines for the amusement of pedestrians (and long before anyone could grasp what wireless remotes meant)
  2. Location unknown:  when Tesla first tested radio and sent radio transmissions to assistants in his labs, long before Marconi did anything with radio transmissions
  3. Wardenclyffe Tower, on Long Island, where Tesla is said to have built one of the first energy distribution nodes of his planned network, long since taken down by Morgan et al

And many, many other spots.

If you know of any favourite spots, please post them in comments.


With special thanks to Kim Mance, travel writer extraordinaire!

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