A Brief History of the Eiffel Tower

A Brief History of the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower, with its distinctive curved base and latticework of iron, is unique among the great buildings of the world.  Originally disliked by many French people, it became a symbol of French culture and national pride.  In the 120 years it has stood on the banks of the Seine River, it has been the backdrop for movies, a focal point for civic events, and the site of more than a few marriage proposals.

Eiffel Tower History

The Eiffel Tower is an impressive engineering feat. It stands 1063 feet (324 meters) tall.  It was the tallest building in the world from its completion in 1889 until the Chrysler Building surpassed it in 1931, and is still the fifth tallest in Europe.  It is built of an open lattice of 18,038 pieces of wrought iron held together by 2.5 million rivets.  The Tower’s open latticework is an ingenious innovation making it light enough to stand and reducing wind resistance.  In fact, the Tower is designed to withstand 150 mile-per-hour winds.

The Eiffel Tower features 2 restaurants and an observation deck located at the 900 foot level.  Most people take the lift, but there are always a few hardy souls who climb the 1650 steps to the top!

In 1887, Gustav Eiffel entered his design for a thousand foot tower in a competition for the upcoming Paris Exposition Universalle commemorating the centennial of the French Revolution.  Though the design was accepted, it was controversial.  Many Parisians signed petitions against what they considered an eyesore.    Nevertheless, the Tower proved extremely popular.  So many people bought tickets that the Eiffel Tower nearly paid for itself the first year after its opening on March 31, 1889.

The Eiffel Tower was intended to be a temporary structure, to be torn down after 20 years.  However, by 1909, the French had found an unexpected use for the Eiffel Tower: it made a perfect communications tower for the new technology called radio.  In 1913, scientists succeeded in establishing a trans-Atlantic radio link with counterparts in New York using the Eiffel Tower.  Its value as a communications tower was fully established during the First World War, when it was used by the French military.

The Eiffel tower was used from 1924 to 1935 to advertise Citroen cars, probably giving it the dubious honor of having been the largest billboard in history.  In 1940, the French sabotaged the lifts, forcing the Nazis to climb the steps in order to hang a swastika banner from the observation deck.

During its lifetime, more than 200 million people have visited the Eiffel Tower.  In 2006, there were 6.7 million visitors.  This enduring popularity continues to make the Eiffel Tower the most visited monument in the world.