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The Eiffel Tower


The eventful life of the most famou­s “Old Lady”

Construction Facts

~ 15,000 iron pieces (excluding rivets)
~ 2.5 million rivets
~ 40 tons of paint
~ Total weight: 8.56 million kg
~ 1671 steps to the top
~ Total height with television antenna: 320.755 meters (1052 feet, 4 inches)
~ Height varies up to 15 cm depending on temperature
~ 300 steel workers to construct it
~ Dates of construction: January 26, 1887 to March 31, 1889
~ Cost of construction: 7.8 million francs ($1.5 million)
~ Total number of visitors during 1889 Exposition: 1,968,287
~ Total receipts during 1889 Exposition: 5,919,884 francs ($1.14 m)

The genesis of the project

The Universal Exposition took place in Paris in 1989. It was the 4th time during the 19th Century (after 1855, 1867 and 1978) but this time was a little special.

It was the 100 anniversary of the French Revolution. The ministry of Commerce and Industry launched a design competition to which more than 700 architects participated. Over all the propositions, Gustave Eiffel’s project was unanimously chosen.

In June 1884, Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier both engineers in the Eiffel company, draw the first sketch of what will become the Eiffel tower 5 years later. Eiffel is not very interested but encourage them to work on it anyway. After a final touch of Stephen Sauvestre, an architect, Eiffel is very enthusastic and files a patent in his own name, Koechlin’s and Nougier’s.

Alexandre Gustave Eiffel

Born December 15, 1832, Dijon, France died Decemeber 28, 1923, Paris. French civil engineer, Eiffel was specialized in metal construction, especially bridges. He directed the erection of an iron bridge at Bordeaux in 1858, followed by several others, and designed the lofty, arched Gallery of Machines for the Paris Exhibition of 1867. Eiffel startled the world with the construction of the Eiffel Tower (1887–89), which brought him the nickname “Magician of Iron.”

A reason of Anger

Le Temps, Février 1887

“Honored compatriot, we come, writers, painters, sculptors, architects, passionate lovers of the beauty of Paris - a beauty until now unspoiled - to protest with all our might, with all our outrage, in the name of slighted French taste, in the name of threatened French art and history, against the erection, in the heart of our capital, of the useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower…”

A petition against the construction of the tower has been published in the newspaper “le Temps” to the attention of Jean-Charles Alphand, coordinator of the building, two years before the beginning of the construction.

This petition has been written and signed by a committee of three hundred involving some famous artists and poets such Leconte de Lisle, Alexandre Dumas and even the architect Charles Garnier, known for his Opera, and official counselor of the exposition!  

After the construction, the novelist Guy de Maupassant, who claimed to hate the tower, supposedly ate lunch in the Tower's restaurant every day. When asked why, he answered that it was the only place in Paris where one could not see the structure.

Saved from the destruction

The Eiffel Tower was supposed to only be on display until 1909 and then destructed. Eiffel himself fought for the protection of his tower. What save it from destruction was its antenna. After being used for sientific researches in a first time, Eiffel contacted the military and convinced them of the tower's potential to be a radio transmission  tower.

Often subject to conquest

1940-1944: Adolf Hitler posed in front of the tower,short time after the France capitulation in 1940. French resistants cutted the cables of the lift, making it irreparable in a war time. It was said that “Hitler conquered France, but did not conquer the Eiffel Tower”

While the Allies were close to Paris, Hitler ordered General Dietrich von Choltitz, the military governor of Paris, to destruct the tower along with the rest of the city. Von Choltitz disobeyed the order.  

The lifts of the Tower were working normally within hours of the Liberation of Paris in August 1944 and American soldiers didn’t forget to take the pose with the “Lady”.

Always a symbol

Nowadays, the Eiffel tower is regulary illuminated as a symbol of celebration.

Here the tower in red to celebrate the Chinese new year, during the 2004 China’s year in France.

The tower took the color of the European Union Flag in 2008, to honor the beginning of the French presidence of the Union.

An art Muse

The Eiffel Tower is a constant source of inspiration for many of its contemporaries. Artists of all kind and from all horizons came to Paris just to see it.

Here are some famous painters’ at works (Robert Delaunay, George Seurat, Diego Rivera, Henry Rousseau) representing the tower. The cinema also used a lot the tower which definitely made from it a symbol of Paris, and of France.

The Eiffel tower as been represented in a lot of movies (for example: G.I Joe, 2009, Stephen Sommers or The day after tomorrow, 2004, R. Emmerich). Interesting fact is that, in fiction, it has been destructed a few times, very often as a symbol of end of the civilisation or of the world as we know it.

A very desired lady

With more than 200,000,000 people having visited the Eiffel Tower since its
construction, this monument is the most visited paid monument per year. Open to the public every day of the year, it has been visited by 6.7 million people in 2010.

First and the second levels of the tower are accessible by both lifts and staircases. Third floor is only accessible by elevators, not for a practical reason but to control a little bit the climbing of tourist!

There are  two restaurants in the tower.  The first called “Altitude 95” is on the first floor, at 95m above sea level.  The second restaurant, the “Jules Verne” is on the second floor and has its own private lift. At the top floor you can find a piece of the original staircase and a reconstitution of Gustave Eiffel's office where features wax figures of Gustave and American inventor Thomas Edison.

More than 400 staff people are working there everyday. The tower's lifts travel 103,000 kilometers every year. The tower bursts into a shimmering display of light every hour after nightfall, until 2 a.m. in the summer. This display is made possible by 335 projectors, each equipped with high-wattage sodium lamps. The intense sparkling effect is created by the beams shooting upward through the tower's structure.


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