Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ten Fascinating Locations in Old New York, Part Four.

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.

Part One. The American Tract Society Building, The Suicide Curves of the Ninth Avenue El, and The American Museum of Natural History.
Part Two. Bellevue Morgue, Hart Island, and The Manhattan State Hospital for the Insane.
Part Three. Tesla's Laboratory on East Houston, and the Eden Musée.

This post: Niagara Falls. The Adams Powerhouse. Goat Island and Terrapin Point.

The novel ends at Niagara Falls. This was inevitable. The conceit of my novel is that Nikola Tesla, tall, cerebral, other-worldly, acts in the role of Sherlock Holmes. The visiting author, Arthur Conan Doyle serves in the role of Dr. Watson. The multi-murderer Dr. Henry H. Holmes (the evil Holmes) functions as Moriarty.

In late 1893, Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes at Reichenbach Falls. During his real-life tour of America in the 1890s, he visited Niagara Falls and declared it should have been where Sherlock Holmes had died.

At the same time, in the mid-1890s, Niagara Falls was the site of Nikola Tesla's supreme triumph. The massive hydroelectric plant assembled there foretold the future. Electricity would define the progress of the coming century.

Two anecdotes.

In his youth, Nikola Tesla constructed paddle-wheels out of twigs and leaves and sent them spinning in a local creek. When he saw a postcard of Niagara Falls, he wondered how large a paddle-wheel would be necessary to harness its power.

A second relevant story is about Tesla and his cat, Macak, goes back to when the inventor was three.

". . .as I stroked Macak's back, I saw a miracle that made me speechless with amazement. Macak's back was a sheet of light and my hand produced a shower of sparks loud enough to be heard all over the house.

My father was a very learned man; he had an answer for every question. But this phenomenon was new even to him. "Well," he finally remarked, "this is nothing but electricity, the same thing you see through the trees in a storm."

Is nature a gigantic cat? If so, who strokes its back? It can only be God, I concluded." From: A Story of Youth Told by Age, Nikola Tesla.
 And so it was foreordained that Tesla would go on to discover the method of generating large amounts of electricity and would achieve this feat at Niagara Falls. In 1896, the electricity generated by the Niagara Falls complex doubled the electrical output for the entire United States. Some were skeptical that so much electricity would be used. They were wrong. Having electricity available created new industries. As an example, before having the electricity necessary for its refinement, aluminum was a precious and rarely used metal; an aluminum cap was placed atop the Washington Monument as a crown. The generators at Niagara helped create Alcoa as a major business and aluminum as a commonplace material.

The Adams Powerhouse at Niagara Falls (right)

The Adams Powerhouse was designed with cathedral-like grandeur by Tesla's friend, Stanford White and funded in part by Jacob Astor. In one of the tragedies that followed Tesla at the margins of his life, White would be murdered in one of the most spectacular and sordid crimes of the early 20th century (deemed "The Crime of the Century" by the press). Jacob Astor would die aboard the Titanic.
Armature being prepared for the Adams Powerhouse

Adams Powerhouse, 1902 (extended to add more generators)

Goat Island and Terrapin Point.

Niagara Falls is not the most ostentatious waterfall in the world, but among great waterfalls, it is the most accessible. At the time of the 1890s, the Victoria Falls and Iguazu Falls were known to the world at large, but few could venture to see them.

Goat Island divides Niagara Falls into two, into what are commonly called the American Falls and the Canadian Falls (also called the Horseshoe Falls). Goat Island is a primary tourist location with excellent views of both falls. In the 1890s, the more daring tourists had further options.

The Biddle Staircase and later the Biddle Elevator descended from the cliffside of Goat Island and allowed tourists to see the falls from below. That area below was a hostile landscape of boulders and scrub trees, but the views were spectacular.

The Biddle Stairs, in operation from 1829 to 1927. (minus the spectacular view)

The rickety bridge to Terrapin Rock at the time of the tower.

Just off of Goat Island, on the Canadian side and at the brink of the falls, was Terrapin Point. A dodgy bridge brought the braver tourists here, essentially just a rock at the brink of the cliff. From the 1820s until 1889, a tower was set at this site. It was blown up, with the promise of a new one soon being built to replace it. This new tower was never built.

Another view.
The bridge and Terrapin Point after the tower was blown up.


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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