The world changed when alternating current was developed at Niagara Falls by a brilliant engineer named Nikola Tesla. Prior to the development of alternating current (AC) direct current (DC) was used. This current had limited use since it only had a limited range of about one square mile from the point of generation. This new type of AC, based on rotating on a rotating magnetic field, would enable electricity to be transmitted efficiently over great distances.
Tesla, born of Serbian parents, in Croatia came across a steel engraving of Niagara Falls which captured his imagination. As he stared at the picture, he envisioned a great wheel could be made to turn from the tremendous force of the water. Shortly after, he travelled to the falls to see if he could harness the power of the falls.
One other brilliant inventor, Thomas Edison recognized his genius and hired him to work in his laboratory. However, a dispute arose between the two when Edison told Tesla his idea of alternating current was nonsense.
Tesla quit and he found two wealthy backers to finance the formation of the Tesla Electric Company. Within a short time, he developed and patented a dynamo, motors, transformers, and distribution equipment necessary for the development of AC.
On November 15, 1896, Tesla’s dream was to become reality when the city of Buffalo, N.Y. began to receive electricity from Tesla’s generating plant located alongside the Niagara River in Niagara Falls, New York. It soon became clear alternating current was a more practical means of providing power.
Today one generating plant is found in Lewiston, New York and two plants in Queenston, Ontario. Both generate power several thousand miles away.
Bronze statutes of Nikola Tesla can be found in both parks that surround the falls paying tribute to this remarkable man.