Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Ten Fascinating Locations in Old New York, Part Three.

Tesla in his East Houston Laboratory
In this series of posts, I have been presenting the real life locations where I set my novel, A Predator's Game. The action took place in 1896. My characters, Nikola Tesla and Arthur Conan Doyle, battle with the multi-murderer Dr. Henry H. Holmes.

In my first post, I presented The American Tract Society Building, The Suicide Curves of the Ninth Avenue El, and The American Museum of Natural History. In the second post, I looked at how old New York handled its dead and undesirables, looking at the Bellevue Morgue, Hart Island, and The Manhattan State Hospital for the Insane. In this post I will look at Tesla's laboratory on the north side of Houston and at the king of the dime store museums, The Eden Musée.

Location #4. Tesla's Laboratory on East Houston.
Location #3. The Eden Musée.

To be continued with:
Location #2. The Adams Power Station.
Location #1. Goat Island and Terrapin Point, Niagara Falls.

Tesla's Laboratory on East Houston.

I've undertaken some novel research regarding Tesla's laboratories, including uncovering photographs of the building on East Houston. Although Tesla created some of his most seminal inventions at previous laboratories, the East Houston address housed his work for the longest period.

Tesla situated his laboratory on the fifth and sixth floors of 46 to 48 East Houston in Manhattan. The building was torn down in 1929. In a 1901 article, the first floor entrance was described as "barn-like" and a freight elevator took the visitors to the upper floors. (Tesla--the original hipster?)

From my novel:

  Long, sturdy tables ran aside the walls of the laboratory, topped by a variety of instruments: turbines and rotors, along with the tools to make machines, to score, slice, and twist metal. A forest of devices crowded the center of the floor: squat spools, towering columns and a six-foot disk inlaid with a hypnotic spiral of copper.
  Holmes imagined some as giant chess pieces. A Tesla coil rising from the floor had elegant, sensuous lines and was topped with a sphere. It was the bishop. Another, taller coil wore a jagged copper crown: the queen. The waist-high spools of wire were the rooks.

From The Omaha Illustrated Bee, December 18, 1904, p. 5

As I point out at length in a previous post, the photo presented below was mislabeled and this was Tesla's laboratory at 46 to 48 East Houston shortly before it was torn down to make room for the expansion of East Houston.

Tesla's E. Houston laboratory (correctly 46 to 48 E. Houston), shortly before demolition.

The Eden Musée.

Dime museums sprung up in the late 1800s, as a quieter and more permanent alternative for audiences to view the curiosities one might otherwise find at freak shows or circuses. They often mixed morals and the morbid. A waxwork display might depict the perils of alcohol alongside the murders of Jack the Ripper. They might include jars with medical specimens or special musical events.

The Eden Musée which opened on 23rd Street near 6th Avenue in 1884, was the high-brow establishment among these museums. It included such features as the Leaders of the World in wax, where curious visitors could walk up to figurines of royalties. It included the amazing automaton, Ajeeb, an expert at chess (inside the robot was an actual chess champion). And it included a Chamber of Horrors with wax figurines of murderers and victims as entertainment.

From my book:

  Built with continental pretensions, the three-story dime museum presented a French Gothic façade with statues of plump ladies serving as columns. A decorative arch displayed a carving of sea nymphs. Its steep roof sloped over its third floor, plunging down to meet an ornamental railing. Garish streamers were slung from window to window. A banner screamed in three-foot-tall letters: Open To All! Come Visit Our Chamber of Horrors!

Eden Musee, 1899. Not as decorated as on other occasions.

Roman Diorama with Wax Figures for highbrow edification.
An Invitation to Come See the Famous Chess-Playing Automaton and Seances

Closed in 1915, the museum has had an enduring legacy. An exhibit in Coney Island purchased some of the material at a bankruptcy sale to outfit a new Eden Musée dedicated to the waxworks. This was destroyed by fire in 1928 only to be rebuilt with new figurines. The name was franchised to Boston for a short-lived museum whose waxworks were then sent to Cedar Point, Ohio where it operated until 1966. More recently, the name has been revived at Cedar Point for a haunted house exhibit. In 2010, a television series titled Musée Eden was set in Montreal. It was a thriller/period piece centering around a wax museum.

Continued in Part Four.


Nikola Tesla, Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Henry H. Holmes are all characters in my thriller, A Predator's Game.

A Predator's Game is available in soft-cover and ebook through Amazon and other online retailers.

A Predator's Game, now available, Rook's Page Publishing.


Back page blurb.

Manhattan, 1896.

When the author Arthur Conan Doyle meets Nikola Tesla he finds a tall, thin genius with a photographic memory and a keen eye, and recognizes in the eccentric inventor the embodiment of his creation, Sherlock. Together, they team up to take on an "evil Holmes." Multi-murderer Dr. Henry H. Holmes has escaped execution and is unleashing a reign of terror upon the metropolis. Set in the late nineteenth century in a world of modern marvels, danger and invention, Conan Doyle and Tesla engage the madman in a deadly game of wits.

Martin Hill Ortiz, also writing under the name, Martin Hill, is the author of A Predatory Mind. Its sequel, set in 1890s Manhattan and titled A Predator's Game, features Nikola Tesla as detective.


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