Nonprofit to buy Nikola Tesla research site

It's been an electrifying few weeks for local fans of scientist Nikola Tesla.

After a whirlwind Internet fundraiser that raked in more than $1 million, a Shoreham nonprofit has made a successful offer to buy Wardenclyffe, the lab on Route 25A in Shoreham where Tesla researched wireless technology between 1903 and 1915.

The nonprofit, Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, signed a letter of intent Friday, according to real estate agent John O'Hara, who represents the seller, the Belgian company Agfa. After a period of due diligence, the sale should be closed by the first quarter of 2013, he said.

"It's been a long process and I'm very happy that they got it," O'Hara said of the nonprofit. "And I'm willing to work with them from now until they put the key into the door of the museum."

O'Hara said he could not disclose the selling price except to say it was "close" to the $1.6 million Agfa listed for the 16-acre site.

Jane Alcorn, president of Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, declined to comment because of a confidentiality agreement.

Her group, founded in 1996, had struggled for years to raise money to buy Wardenclyffe, with hopes of restoring the site as a museum and research center dedicated to the Serbian-American scientist who invented key components of modern electricity and radio.

The main building -- designed by Tesla's friend, famed architect Stanford White -- still stands, though an iconic radio tower Tesla used for wireless experiments was torn down. The lab was turned into a photo processing plant after Tesla had to abandon his groundbreaking research due to a lack of funding. He died penniless in 1943.

In August, Alcorn's group got a jolt from popular Internet cartoonist and self-professed Tesla fan Matthew Inman, who runs The Oatmeal blog. He launched an online fundraiser for Wardenclyffe that raised $1.37 million in a month.

And Tesla's resurgence in pop culture continues. The celebrity magician David Blaine, known for extreme endurance stunts, visited Wardenclyffe in September, O'Hara said, as preparation for his latest stunt launched Friday night. Blaine plans to perch on a 20-foot-high tower in Manhattan for three days while being zapped by a million volts of electricity coming from coils that Tesla had designed.

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