When Gustave Eiffel designed the Eiffel Tower for the 1889 Exposition Universelle held to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the French Revolution, he had never envisioned it to last more than 20 years. But the tower, which turned 125 on Monday, March 31st, has not only outlived all expectations, but also, become the most France, one that is visited by almost 7 million visitors a year.
While its sleek structure is greatly admired today, such was not the case when the designs were first revealed. Many French artists thought that the design was ugly and called it a monstrosity. But Eiffel did not change a thing. He was convinced that once it was ready, Parisians and visitors would love the tower. He was absolutely right.
The Tower was an instant hit with the public when it opened on March 31st, 1889, two years after construction began. Over 30,00 people came to admire this new wonder and even made the effort to climb the 1,710 stairs to the top, since the elevators were still not functioning. Besides being gorgeous to look at, the 984 feet tower remained the world's tallest man-made structure until 1930, when it was finally overthrown from its perch, by the 1,046 feet Chrysler building in New York City.
Despite its popularity and fame, French officials were still considering taking it down after the stipulated 20-years had elapsed. Fortunately, Eiffel deterred them by convincing them to use it for scientific experiments like transmitting radio signals and then a few years later, signals for television broadcasting. Over the years, the tower was also home to a newspaper office, post office, theater and even a laboratory for Gustave Eiffel, who happened to be a brilliant scientist and conducted many experiments in aerodynamics, a subject that intrigued him immensely.
Today, the tower houses a number of restaurants on its first and second level. The third level has been converted into a vast observatory platform from which visitors can see the entire city of Paris. While visitors are allowed to take the stairs to the first two levels, the observatory can only be accessed via the elevators, which are closely monitored. That however has not stopped attempts by daredevils to try perform all kinds of stunts off the tower - from bungee jumping to climbing it with their bare hands and even, trying to fly underneath. Unfortunately, not all have been successful!
To ensure that the 'Iron Lady' as it is often called, always looks good, the tower is cleaned, scraped and repainted every eight years - an effort that takes a team of 25 workers, an entire year. Though the color has changed from yellowish brown when it was first constructed to yellow ochre to the bronze it currently sports, the painters apply the same technique of using different shades from top to bottom. This is to ensure that the color looks uniform, no matter where the tower is being viewed from. Also, thanks to the fact that it was constructed with wrought iron that expands when heated, the tower 'grows' up to 6.75 inches taller every summer!
If 'imitation is the best form of flattery', the Eiffel tower certainly has plenty to be flattered about. Over the years, there have been numerous replicas built. The tallest and most famous is in Las Vegas. The impressive 165-meter tower harbors a restaurant and boasts panoramic views of the city. In addition to that, various amusement centers including Disney's Epcot Center in Florida, have their own version. Not surprisingly, the American towns of Paris in Texas and Tennessee, each have one too. China has two - one inside an amusement park and a second in a residential area. Dubai, the capital of the world's tallest buildings couldn't resist either . . . and the list goes on! Of course, none are quite like the original one, which even today is considered an outstanding technological achievement and is not surprisingly, the world's most visited paid monument.
Happy 125th birthday Eiffel Tower!
Resources: lightbox.time.com, tour-eiffel.fr