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Nikola Tesla's legacy on display in North Tonawanda

Unknown story of the former transformer station's place in history

NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. — If you ever drive in the Tonawandas, you have likely driven by without giving it a second thought, but sitting right there at the corner of the Twin City Highway and Robinson Road is the old North Tonawanda Transformer Station.

It's a piece of history, dating back to 1895.

National Grid's Ken Kujawa says this building played a critical role in moving electricity over a long distance using alternating current. It was one of many key components in Nikola Tesla's harnessing the power of nature to produce usable electricity and send it over long distances. Buffalo State professor emeritus Francis Lestingi explains "the whole project was to see if they could use the power of Niagara, in other words hydroelectricity."

In that first transmission, the distance was 23 miles, from Niagara Falls to Buffalo. On the way there were these transformer houses and this was one of them. 

In 1896, Tesla and his partner Westinghouse, were able to send power to the Queen City, initially used to run street cars, but then everything else. 

Buffalo was dubbed the city of light, showcased to the world a few years later at the Pan Am Exposition. All of that power, coursing through this building, that is now being showcased and preserved. 

National Grid has already invested more than a million dollars in structural work says Kujawa. "We replaced a lot of brick on the building that had broken off and cracked we replaced the roof slight tiles and while we were looking at doing the physical work on the building we said how can we honor the history of this building."

Buffalo Niagara Nikola Tesla Council founder Marty McGee says "what they've done to beautify it is just we're just so happy."

They have already installed graphic window panels with images of Westinghouse, Tesla and Niagara Falls. Next will be transforming the area in front of the building into a small park with interpretive signage, including Q.R. codes, linking to even more info.

Yet another stop on the Council's Tesla Legacy Corridor starting on Goat Island,  The Tesla Coil Monument at Gratwick Park, this transformer house and ending at Nikola Tesla Park in Buffalo, the first park in the country named for the father of alternating current.



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