Billy Martin

New York Yankees infielder Billy Martin seen in a 1954 photo published in the Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph

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Editor’s note: Several years ago The Gazette’s Linda Navarro wrote a long-running series on Colorado Springs historical facts and answered questions from readers about what was going on around town. Today we’re restarting that series with a modern twist.

Tesla’s Colorado Springs Lab

Nikola Tesla moved to Colorado Springs in 1899 to experiment with electricity, but where was his lab?

Tesla’s lab has often been depicted in the mountains above Colorado Springs in film, but that was for dramatic effect and is a Hollywood-generated myth.

For example, in the 2005 Christopher Nolan movie “The Prestige,” in which Tesla is played by David Bowie, he has a mountain laboratory overlooking Colorado Springs.

Tesla, born in modern-day Croatia, was best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system.

According to the Pikes Peak Library District video “Tracing Tesla: The Search of his Lost Laboratory,” the lab was on top of a hill near East Kiowa Street and North Foote Avenue. It was between the Union Printers Home and the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind.

Somewhat surprisingly, there is nothing marking the site although there is a plaque nearby in Memorial Park noting its general location. The area is now residential and is a short walk north from the park.

The World Series MVP stationed at Fort Carson

Colorado Springs has had its share of celebrity visitors.

From presidents giving speeches to actors taking on the Manitou Incline, seeing the occasional famous face isn’t unheard of. But one famous athlete’s time in Colorado Springs was truly unique.

New York Yankees legend Billy Martin was drafted into the Army in 1954 and after basic training was stationed at Fort Carson, which at the time was called Camp Carson.

The Yankees second baseman was in the prime of his playing career and had been the MVP of the 1953 World Series, leading teammates Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra to New York’s fifth consecutive world championship. At Fort Carson, Martin would march, go on grueling training missions, perform kitchen patrol duty and was eventually assigned to run the post gym and manage the baseball team.

During his stint at Fort Carson, which spanned the majority of his 22 months of Army service, Martin batted over .500 and his Army team’s finished 25-4.

In August 1955, Martin was given a 30-day furlough and rejoined the Yankees. He hit .300 in 20 games and would again lead New York to the World Series, where they eventually lost to the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Martin would return to Fort Carson and would eventually be given an honorable discharge and left the Army as a corporal with a good conduct medal, ironic considering his well-known temper.

Martin would write about his Army service in two autobiographies. He passed away on Dec. 25, 1989.

Hollywood icon’s link to a Colorado Springs school

Many know that silent film star Lon Chaney, renowned for his work in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “The Phantom of the Opera,” is from Colorado Springs.

What you might not know is his connection to the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind.

Chaney’s maternal grandparents, John and Mary Kennedy, had three children, all of whom were born with impaired hearing.

John Kennedy would establish what would become the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind with a $5,000 appropriation from the Colorado Territorial Legislature and land donated by Gen. Palmer’s Colorado Springs Co. in 1874.

Chaney stayed connected to the school and in 1925 even held a special screening of “The Phantom of the Opera” for students.

Have a question about Colorado Springs or its history? Know something interesting about the history of Colorado Springs? Send questions, comments and suggestions to terry.terrones@gazette.com with Column Question in the subject line to avoid spam.

Terry is a journalist for The Gazette. He's a graduate of the University of Denver, loves the Denver Broncos, and is a member of the Television Critics Association and Critics Choice Association.

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