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Tesla City

Nikola Tesla was a Croatian born inventor and engineer who is best known for his contributions to alternating current (AC) electrical transmission. He briefly worked with Thomas Edison, but the two had a well known parting of ways over AC/DC transmission known as the “War of Currents”. Nikola Tesla’s work has deep roots right here in Western New York.

2280 Niagara Street is home to Terminal A, the site of the world’s first Bulk Power Transmission Receiving Station which allowed Tesla’s three-phase alternating AC electrical transmission to travel and deliver electricity over long distances.

Terminal A received electrical transmission from the Adams Power Station in Niagara Falls, and was the critical midpoint electrical transformer station to conduct delivery to Buffalo, particularly the Pan American Exposition. Terminal A contained transmission equipment for overhead high voltage and outgoing lower voltage underground cables and it was the sole distribution point of Niagara Falls electricity within the City of Buffalo until Terminal Station B was built at Niagara and Busti in 1906 to supply the southern half of the City.

Terminal A’s historic significance was to prove that Tesla’s three phase AC electrical transmission to travel and deliver electricity over long distances was qualified as safe, efficient, and successful, thus adding credit to Tesla’s bid in winning the “War of Currents” over Edison’s DC transmission. Its humble brick shoebox of an edifice was not addressed for attention, but its very fact of safety and success proved we could have safe, quiet transformer buildings that conduct over long distances and forego the Edison alternative which required coal-burning furnaces at the end of every block, residential or commercial.

Tesla-Buffalo-Zimm-NY

In May 2012 the Buffalo Common Council declared 2280 Niagara Street to be classified as “an important area historical landmark site,” signifying its roots to the beginnings of electrical transmission.

Enter Bill Zimmerman, owner of Seven Seas Sailing of Buffalo and history buff with a fascination of Terminal A and Nikola Tesla. Zimmerman claims, “Since my teens I was fascinated by Nikola Tesla. He was always synonymous with a sense of spooky side-history, like Nostradamus and others, but he was never given scientific credibility in our textbooks. Stories about Tesla were often narrated by people like Orson Welles and given a mysterious dark side and questionable credibility. But his resurgence is regenerating an honest history about a brilliant man who invented our present and possibly much of our future.”

Photo of Bill (right) and Paul by Dr. Mark Donnelly
^Photo of Bill (right) and Paul, by Dr. Mark Donnelly

This fascination has led to Zimmerman’s vision of Tesla city, a three-phase three-year project to turn Terminal A into an interactive museum complex including a Tesla-themed brewery and beer garden restaurant. Zimmerman purchased the property at 2280 Niagara Street with his friend and restaurateur Paul Tsouflidis, owner of Acropolis Restaurant and Newbury Street. Zimmerman is happy to have Tsouflidis as partner stating, “Paul is such an innovator and grasps Buffalo’s huge entrepreneurial scene but also knows and cares about people. He loves this project and that’s exciting for both of us.” According to Zimmerman, the duo foresees the project with an Epcot vision, “hoping to combine education and entertainment to achieve growth and sustainability.”

Zimmerman states, “Just like Tesla’s three-phase current, our project is envisioned in three phases of development. The first phase begins with the construction of the interior museum and brewery. The second phase will be an exterior glassed auditorium, with a three-floor glassed elevator reaching the rooftop, where the third phase will feature a glassed Tesla Terrace restaurant expansion with beautiful views of the river and Niagara Falls. Our proximity to the 190 is a natural fit to be a center point for tourists from both Buffalo and Niagara Falls. We stay in touch with the folks in Niagara Falls who are seeking funding for a Tesla Museum at the Adams Power Station, and hope that their and our success will interact in many collaborative ways.  The key to the Tesla resurgence is collaboration, hence we called our Facebook page Nikola TESLA Collaborative.”

Tesla-Museum-Buffalo-NY-1Scott Wood is a Buffalo Native and one of the country’s top museum designers who has studied Tesla for over 20 years. Wood just signed on as museum designer. Zimmerman and Tsouflidis are excited with the commitment from Wood knowing that his museum design experience and extensive knowledge and research of Tesla will result in an extraordinary space.

Zimmerman hopes to include his passion for sailing and boating in the project by involving Seven Seas Sailing of Buffalo as well. Wood too is a watersports enthusiast and avid kayaker. Zimmerman and Wood have worked together on watersports expos over the years and are hopeful about the prospect of combining their shared passions for the water and Tesla. Just over the 190 from Tesla City lies a restored Ontario Street Boat Launch and visitors park, whereby a park walkway sneaks underneath the viaduct and leads directly to a short walk to Tesla City. They plan to do boat tours from downtown to the museum site and offer tourists and guests a whole day package of sailing, beer tasting and museum exploring.

To keep abreast of this project and to learn more about Nikola Tesla, like their Facebook page by clicking here.

The three-year project is scheduled to begin in the Spring of 2016. When the first phase of the brewery opens, all involved will be happy to sip the first pour of their house brew that will likely be called Edison Bitter Ale. Join in the journey and the first sip.

Written by Holly Metz Doyle

Holly Metz Doyle

A Buffalo native, Holly spent quite a bit of time traveling the globe, but after living on the West coast for a bit was called back to her roots in Western New York. She tries to devote as much of her time doing the things she loves most, enjoying the outdoors, hanging out with her two daughters Sophie and Amelia, playing with her family's many rescued animals, checking out estate sales and old houses, crossfitting and, of course, writing.

View All Articles by Holly Metz Doyle
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