The Eiffel Tower — or, La Tour Eiffel — has remained one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks, symbolizing the romance and ingenuity of the City of Lights.
Originally designed as the centerpiece of the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, the Tower was meant to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution and show off France’s modern mechanical prowess on a world stage.
And that it did. At the time of its completion, it was considered a marvel of precision and speed, built in record time over the course of two years, two months, and five days. Gustave Eiffel’s civil engineering firm used 7,300 tons of iron and 2.5 million rivets, and the end result stood triumphant over the Champs de Mars, receiving two million visitors during the fair.
The Tower’s now famous silhouette has been emulated around the world in China, Las Vegas, Prague, and, of course, Paris, Texas. The design wasn’t without its detractors, however — a “Protest against the Tower of Monsieur Eiffel” signed by the likes of Guy de Maupassant, Alexandre Dumas Junior, and other well-known artists was published in a Parisian newspaper before the Tower’s completion. They argued that it would be “a gigantic black factory chimney, its barbarous mass overwhelming and humiliating all our monuments and belittling our works of architecture, which will just disappear before this stupefying folly.”
Luckily, the Tower did see the light of day and, in defiance of its protesters, has stood the test of time. The Eiffel Tower is one of the most visited monuments in the world, welcoming almost seven million visitors a year and over 300 million people since its debut. It’s changed over the years, with the addition of lighting, fresh coats of paint, and numerous installations that have come and gone.
And, there’s still more to this landmark than meets the eye. Despite the incredible number of people who have walked up the Iron Lady, there are still secrets to tell about it.
Below, the history, facts, and secrets of the Eiffel Tower.
There’s a secret apartment at the top.
When designing his namesake tower, Eiffel cleverly included a private apartment for himself where he hosted famous guests, like Thomas Edison. It has since been transformed into a recreation of Eiffel’s office, complete with wax figures of himself, his daughter, and Edison, and is open for the public to tour.
Gustave Eiffel didn’t design the tower.
While Eiffel earned the naming rights for the Tower, it was actually two engineers who worked for his company — Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier — who worked on the original design. They also commissioned French architect Stephen Sauvestre to work on the appearance of the project, in order to quell public concerns about the harsh, utilitarian nature of the original design. They ultimately beat out 106 other projects in a contest to choose the main attraction of the World’s Fair.
The Eiffel Tower was supposed to be torn down after 20 years.
As mentioned before, the Tower was built with the intent of showing off France’s industrial prowess during the World’s Fair, but the plan was to tear it down after 20 years. However, Eiffel cleverly put a radio antenna and wireless telegraph transmitter in the Tower, and the government eventually decided it was too useful to demolish.
Hitler ordered the Eiffel Tower to be destroyed.
When Germany occupied France during the second World War, Hitler ordered that the Eiffel Tower be torn down, but the order was never followed through. French resistance fighters got their revenge, though — they cut the Tower’s elevator cables so the Nazis were forced to climb the stairs to hoist their flag.
The Eiffel Tower is a cousin of sorts to the Statue of Liberty.
Before the Eiffel Tower was built, Eiffel’s firm was asked to design the internal frame for the Statue of Liberty, a task assigned to his trusted partner, Koechlin. They proved their iron expertise with Lady Liberty before moving on to the Iron Lady.
The Eiffel Tower has been home to both a post office and a theater in the past.
The Tower has seen several installations throughout the years, many of which are now gone. These include the newspaper offices of “Le Figaro” on the second floor for six months in 1889, a post office tucked into the first floor, and a wooden theater on the first floor designed by Sauvestre.
The Eiffel Tower doubled as a scientific laboratory.
Eiffel, an avid scientist, housed a meteorology lab on the Tower’s third floor where he performed studies in physics, aerodynamics, and built a wind tunnel. Eiffel opened the doors of the laboratory for other scientists to use for their experiments, as well.
The Eiffel Tower moves.
The massive iron structure is wind resistant and will sway during a storm. Wind isn’t the only thing that can make the enormous Tower move, though — the heat of the sun also affects it, causing the iron to expand making the Tower grow an average of six inches during hot months.
The Eiffel Tower is covered in the names of scientists.
French scientists and engineers working in the 19th century were not forgotten by history — not only did they lend their names to Parisian streets, but 72 of them are also engraved on the Eiffel Tower. The engraved tributes were covered up, but thanks to a restoration effort, they are once again visible and eagle-eyed visitors can see names like Foucault, Dumas, and Perrier cut into the iron.
It takes a lot of work to keep the Eiffel Tower looking good.
Every seven years, around 60 tons of paint are applied to the tower. It not only keeps the so-called La dame de fer looking good, but also helps the iron from rusting.
The Eiffel Tower’s sparkling lights are copyrighted art.
Lighting first came to the Tower in 1985 with the addition of 336 yellow-orange spotlights, but the now-famous sparkling light show, consisting of 20,000 bulbs, first lit up the night sky New Year’s Eve 1999 to ring in the new millennium. While the Tower itself is in the public domain, its lighting and sparkles are still protected by copyright under French law. However, don’t call your lawyer just yet — this only applies to pictures taken for professional use. You’re free to share any personal pictures of the Eiffel Tower and its lights as you please.
There’s a Champagne bar at the top.
If you’re brave enough to reach the top of the Tower, reward yourself with a glass of Champagne from the Champagne bar built into the top floor. There’s nothing like a glass of bubbly with a spectacular view.
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