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Historic Nikola Tesla laboratory on Long Island damaged in devastating fire

Fire at Tesla Science Center causes estimated $3 million in damage
Fire at Tesla Science Center causes estimated $3 million in damage 02:26

SHOREHAM, N.Y. -- A devastating fire at the famed Tesla Science Center last week was a real gut punch to the Long Island community.

Worldwide attention is now being paid to salvage the historic laboratory that now has parts left in ruins.

One of Long Island's most revered residents, famed Serbian-American scientist Nikola Tesla, died penniless in 1943.

"He was an amazing thinker and inventor and scientist, and this is his last laboratory," said Jane Alcorn, who is on the Tesla Science Center's Board of Directors.

His historic lab, in the midst of a massive multimillion dollar rebuild in Shoreham, suffered devastating damage just before Thanksgiving.

"It was a very rough night. Definitely a lot of wind, rain, very cold," said Rocky Point Fire Chief Sean McCarrick.

One hundred firefighters fought to save the structure surrounded by 15 acres, deemed a national historic site.

"We were so close to being able to finish this project and have it on site," Tesla Science Center Executive Director Marc Allesi said.

After years of intensive work, it was due to soon open as the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe.

"The original Tesla walls are all brick, are still standing," historic architect Mark Thaler said.

That it's standing is giving the community and science fans everywhere hope.

"This is really an important historic site. Not just to this county, to this state, to this country, but worldwide," Sen. Anthony Palumbo said.

Tesla -- who designed alternating current, allowing for Wi-Fi, radio, remote control robotics, and as a futurist in 1904, predicted cell phones of today -- only now, after his death, has a worldwide following.

Elon Musk, who named his car company after the legendary scientist, donated $1 million to the restoration during the initial crowd sourcing effort that brought in donors from 100 countries.

To continue to transform this site into a global innovation center, educational facility and museum, volunteers and donors are being called on again.

"The fire is going to set us back, and I think our community both locally and globally, I think they want to step up and help," Alessi said.

"Like a phoenix rising from ashes, this Tesla laboratory will rise as well," Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner said.

The fire caused an estimated $3 million in damage. Founders hope the global appeal of the renowned scientist will inspire fundraising.

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