When plans were first
unveiled to build the structure for the 1889 World's Fair, the
design was severely criticized by intellectuals and
monument to mark the centenary of the French Revolution became
as controversial a subject in Parisian society.
A group headed by such
prominent nineteenth-century writers as Guy de Maupassant and
Alexandre Dumas, as well as the architect of the old opera,
Charles Garnier, lodged a formal complaint against the proposed
plan, calling the design a disgraceful skeleton . . . "a
gigantic factory chimney whose form will disfigure the
architectural harmony of the city."
Despite the criticisms
and the many labor strikes during the construction, the tower
was built in a little over two years.
The architect, Gustave
Eiffel, an innovator in iron design, had worked previously on bridges, the west train station in
Budapest and the framework for the Statue of Liberty. He watched his biggest project to date go
up like a gigantic work of Lego: 18,038 pieces of iron were fitted together with 2.5 million
rivets by more than 100 workmen who functioned almost like acrobats and stuntmen. Not one man
lost his life during the construction.
When the tower opened
to the public in May, 1889, it was an instant
Eiffel was able to
reimburse his creditors within one year, just through the
admission ticket receipts from the 1,868,000
Twenty years later,
however, the lease for the land expired, and Eiffel lost
control of his tower to the City of Paris.
The land was too
valuable for such a frivolous structure, according to city
council, and plans were made to turn the tower into scrap
Fortunately for the
Eiffel Tower, the First World War came along, and the tower was
transformed into a military radio and telegraph centre. Its
lease was renewed for another 70 years, and the tourists
continued to flock to the structure.
But by 1980, thanks to mismanagement, the tower had fallen
into serious disrepair. The structure weighed 9,700 tons in 1889, but had gained an extra 1,300
tons over the year from concrete additions and radio and television antennas. The elevators were
worn out, and the entire structure was considered dangerous.
A new company was designated by the city to look after the
tower, and renovations costing $38-million took place between 1980 and 1983. The extra weight was
sawed off, and the most recognizable pieces, like parts of the original staircase, were publicly
auctioned. New elevators were installed, and the structure itself was spruced up with a coat of
fresh paint weighing five tons.
Today the Eiffel Tower is a successful business affair.
Last year more than 4.5 million people visited it, a figure that has increased by a million
since 1980, and the structure is once again financed almost solely by admission receipts. Three
restaurants have been added, including the respected Jules Verne that now requires a three-month
wait for a reservation. The tower houses a post office, money exchange and auditorium. And every
year, a million post cards are sold on the first floor.
Eiffel Tower Stages
- Click to enlarge the
Eiffel Tower in Paris
Eiffel Tower detail