Paris is much in the news these days because of the terrorist bombing. I thought it appropriate to write about something of a French nature which especially symbolizes Paris.
The Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower was built for the 1889 Paris Centennial Exhibition. The World’s Fair. Its purpose to commemorate the French Revolution 100 years earlier. The Tower was to remain for only 20 years. Then to be torn down.
Most Parisians were opposed to the Tower. They thought even 20 years too long. The Tower was referred to by them as a lamp post stuck in the belly of Paris, an odious column of bolted metal.
A public campaign ensued to prevent the Tower’s construction. Called the Committee of the Three Hundred. Composed of important French art figures. Architects, artists and writers. The Committee considered the proposed Tower useless and monstrous. A barbarous mass overwhelming and humiliating other monuments. An eyesore.
The Committee failed. The Tower was built. Took 2 years to complete. Not torn down after 20 years. Stands to this day.
Tourists liked the Tower from day one. Two million visited the Tower its first year. Millions more in subsequent years. The Tower today averages 7 million visitors a year.
Radio saved the Tower. Note the Tower was built for the 1889 World’s Fair. Radio was invented and developed in the 20 years between 1890 and 1910.
The Tower was nearly 1,000 feet tall. It became a state of the art wireless facility. Capable of transmitting messages initially to London, Berlin and North Africa. Then the United States when the Tower became part of the U.S. Army’s wireless telegraph system.
The Tower had a war time value. During World War I, the radio tower intercepted enemy communications, relayed Zeppelin alerts, and was used to dispatch emergency troop reinforcements.
During World War II, Hitler ordered the Tower destroyed when it was apparent Paris would fall to the Allies. Fortunately, the scheme was not carried out. Also during World War II, French resistance fighters cut the elevator cables so the Nazis had to climb the stairs. The fighters kept the cables cut throughout the occupation.
The Tower’s infancy began with a competition to build a monument for the World’s Fair. More than 100 competed and submitted plans. Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel’s company Eiffel de Compagnie received the commission. The company had a solid reputation as an architectural, consulting, bridge building, and construction firm.
Eiffel had a valued employee, the structural engineer Maurice Koechlin. Eissel and Koechlin worked as a team regarding the Tower. The two had collaborated earlier on the Statue of Liberty’s armature.
The Tower was constructed of puddle iron. Another name for wrought iron. The Tower consists of 18,000 pieces of puddle iron and 2.5 million rivets. It stood nearly 1,000 feet tall when completed. One thousand feet tall being comparable to an 81 story building.
The Tower consisted of 3 platforms/floors. Initially, only 2 were open to the pubic. Later, all 3. Today serviced by 9 elevators. Restaurants among present day tenants.
The Tower is repainted every seven years. At the beginning, 3 colors. Lighter at the top. Gradually getting darker as the bottom was reached. The purpose to make the Tower compliant with the Parisian sky. In 2013, the Tower was painted bronze.
The Tower received a major face lift in 1986.
The Tower is owned by the City of Paris.
The top floor had a small apartment reserved for Eiffel himself. Eiffel used the apartment to entertain. The apartment remains today even though Eiffel is long gone. It has been decorated in the period style as when constructed. Lifelike mannequins of Eiffel and notable guests are part of the apartment. The rooms are open to the public.
Charles de Gaulle could be hard to live with. History tells us of Eisenhower’s trials and tribulations with the man. His ideas did not always make sense.
In 1967, de Gaulle was President of France. He secretly arranged with Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau to dismantle the Tower and relocate it to Montreal for Montreal’s Expo 67. When the plan was discovered, all of Paris and France went crazy. The French people feared the Tower would never return. The plan was dropped.
The Eiffel Tower…..one of the Seven Wonders of the World.