(Gustave Eiffel, born Dijon December 15th, 1832; died Paris December 27th, 1923)
Paris’s iconic landmark turned 125 years old this year (2014). Over the course of its history this famous structure has seen many changes, improvements and upgrades. But one thing that has not changed is its popularity. Since it was constructed it has been the center of attention, both positive and negative—it was the highest building in the world at that time and represented a real challenge to build.
Built for the Universal Exhibition of 1889, which was a celebration of the French Revolution’s 100th anniversary, the concept of a 1000-foot tower was considered crazy and impossible at that time. The young French Republic saw the Universal Exhibition as a way of boosting the economy through grandiose works, and the highlight was to be a great monument. A competition was launched in 1886 and the Eiffel enterprise was one of four prize-winners.
Gustave Eiffel, a civil engineer, did not actually design the Eiffel Tower. It was conceived and designed by engineers Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier, with the help of architect Stephen Sauvestre. Once Eiffel realized that this design was perfect for the Exhibition, he threw all his support behind it, and that was considerable.
Some Eiffel Tower Fun Facts:
— It was completed on March 31st 1889, on which day Eiffel hoisted the French flag to the summit. It was opened to the public on May 15th 1889.
— Total height in 1889, to the top of the flagpole: 300m/984ft. Total height today with the television mast: 320.75m/1081ft
—Width of each foot at the base: 26.08m/85ft 6 ins
—Two and a half million assembly rivets were used in the construction
— Supposedly the tower can accommodate 5,000 people (3,000 on the first floor; 1600 on the second floor; and 400 on the third floor).
—The first signature in the Visitors’ Book is that of the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII) who went up the tower on June 10th 1889.
—The aerials on the tower intercepted a message that made it possible to arrest the famous spy, Mata Hari, during the First World War.
—The tower was closed to the public during the two World Wars
—Eiffel lived long enough to hear the first public radio transmission in 1921, emitted from his aerials.
—On a clear day one can see up to 80 km/50 mi from the tower
—Thomas Edison, inventor of the phonograph, visited the tower, recorded Eiffel’s voice and offered a dedication to him. This scene is reconstructed with wax-work figures in Eiffel’s office on the third floor, along with Eiffel’s daughter Claire.