Nothing says “Paris, France” like the Eiffel Tower.  Everyone who visits Paris has a story about the Eiffel Tower, whether it’s a marriage proposal or an anniversary spot, or simply proof of a visit to France.   The structure has a long history. It survived the occupation of the Germans, despite their attempts to use the tower for propaganda purposes.  It is one of the most recognizable structures in the world.  

The Eiffel Tower is located on the Champs de Mars and stands 324 meters high (approximately 1,024 feet) when its antenna is included.   When it was first built it stood at 312 meters and for 41 years it was the tallest building in the world.  When the Chrysler building was built in New York City it topped the tower coming in at a height of 319 meters.  Visitors can access three levels of the structure, two by stairs or elevator; the third by elevator only.  Over 300 steps exist between each level with a total of over 1,600 steps going up the entire tower and the first two levels feature restaurants, some buffets, and a champagne bar.[2]  

The Beginning of the Eiffel Tower 

In 1889 Paris, France was to host the World’s Fair.   Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier, two engineers of the Compagnie des Etablissements Eiffel, designed the tower aConcept of Eiffel Tower;  photographer Maurice Koechlin, Émile Nouguier, Source: Wikimedia CommonsCredit: pphotographer Maurice Koechlin, Émile Nouguier, Source: Wikimedia Commons s a suitable centerpiece for the fair.  In 1884 Koechlin  sketched an outline for the project and described it as "a great pylon, consisting of four lattice girders standing apart at the base and coming together at the top, joined together by metal trusses at regular intervals.” [1]  

At first Gustave Eiffel, owner of the company, showed little interest, but went ahead and gave approval for further study of the project.  Koechlin and Nouguier requested the head of the architectural department, Stephen Sauvestre, to help with the design.  Sauvestre added embellishments which gained Eiffel’s support and he bought the patent of the design from the three gentlemen.  Later that year, the design was exhibited at the Exhibition of Decorative Arts and early the following year, Eiffel presented a paper to the Societe des Ingienieurs Civils. 

In 1886, Edouard Lockroy, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, announced a bid to construct a four-sided metal tower on the Champ de Mars.  107 projects were submitted, but the project was awarded to Eiffel.[1]  His company was to construct the tower and it was given the rights to operate it for twenty years.  

Construction of the Tower 

Construction of Eiffel Tower Begins;  Photographer unknown, Source; Wikimedia CommonsCredit: Photographer unknown, Source; Wikimedia CommonsConstruction on the tower began on January 28, 1887 and took over two years to complete.  Though Sauvestre was the main architect in charge; there were about fifty engineers, 121 construction workers, and 100 iron workers who worked on constructing the Tower.[2]  During the entire construction period, only one worker died.[2] 

Thousands of drawings were prepared for the 18,038 different parts of the tower.  Finished components were brought to the site; no drilling or shaping was done on-site.  When parts didn’t fit, they were sent back to the factory for alterations.  In the entire structure, 18,038 pieces were connected by two and a half million rivets.[2]  First Level of Eiffel Tower Completed; Photographer unknown, Source: Wikimedia CommonsCredit: Fhotographer unknown, Source: Wikimedia Commons

The four legs were constructed as cantilevers until about halfway to the first level at which time, timber scaffold was built.  A creeper crane was installed in each leg and by March of 1888 the four legs were joined at the first level.  A year later at the endEiffel Tower during the World Fair;  Photographer William H. Rau (1855-1920), photo courtesy of the Library of Congress, Source: Wikimedia CommonsCredit: Photographer William H. Rau (1855-1920), photo courtesy of the Library of Congress, Source: Wikimedia Commons of March 1889, the main structural work on the Tower was completed.  On March 31, Eiffel led a group of government officials and reporters to the top of the tower.  The elevators weren’t operating at the time so the group made the climb by stairs taking over an hour to reach the top.[1]   The entire group did not make the entire trek, most stopped at the lower levels.   The famous landmark officially opened to the public mid-May; nine days after the May 6th opening of the World’s Fair.  At that time, the elevators had still not been completed.  


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Controversy About the Giant Structure                         

Even before the tower was constructed there was controversy surrounding it.  Some detractors simply did not think the structure feasible.  Some of the artists of the day objected to it on artistic grounds.  They did not believe the structure was on par architecturally with structures such as the Arc de Triumphe and others that eventually became National Monuments.  They considered the tower more of an engineering object rather than an architectural one.  They sent a petition to Charles Alphand, the Minister of Works and Commissioner for the World’s Fair.  In response, Eiffel compared the Eiffel Tower to the Great Pyramids of Egypt.[1]

Newspapers had a field day during the construction of the tower.  Concerns about the structural soundness were often voiced.  When the timber scaffold was built in the legs, the papers printed headlines of concern, calling Eiffel “mad” and indicating he had been confined to an Asylum.[1]  Another concern brought to the surface was the cost of the tower.  At the end of construction, the Eiffel Tower had reached close to eight million gold French francs (1889 value). [2]

The Eiffel Tower Today

Originally the masive Tower was to be dismantled after twenty years when the ownership reverted to the city of Paris from Eiffel.  However, the city realized how valuable the tower was for communication purposes and decided to leave it standing.  Radio transmitters were fitted to the tower to jam German communication during World War I.  During World War II when the Germans occupied Paris, the elevator cables were cut by the French so Adolf Hitler would have to climb the stairs.[2]  Hitler never climbed the stairs, but it did make it difficult for the Nazis to fly their flag from the tower.   As soon as Paris was liberated, the cables were “miraculously repaired.”   When the Germans were leaving, Hitler ordered the military Eiffel Tower in Paris, France;  Photo by Rüdiger Wölk, Münster, Source: Wikimedia CommonsCredit: Photo by Rüdiger Wölk, Münster, Source: Wikimedia CommonsGovernor to Paris to demolish the city, including the giant tower, but the order was disobeyed.

Every seven years the big Tower is painted.  It takes 25 painters over a year to paint the entire structure.[4]  It is painted all by hand using small circular brushes.[4]  Over the years the tower has been painted red, orange and even yellow, but since 1968 it has maintained a signature brown color.  It takes about 66 tons of paint to cover the entire structure. [4]

Today the Eiffel Tower is considered by most to be a striking piece of structural art.  It is the most visited landmark in the world with visits surpassing a quarter of a billion.  Five radio and six television stations broadcast from the top of the tower.  Visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of Paris from the landmark and a gourmet meal from one of its restaurants.  Le 58 Tour Eiffel is located on the first level (58 meters high and from which it gets its name) and the Jules Verne is on the second level.  Jules Verne is a one-Michelin- star dining experience and is booked solid most days.  Both restaurants are pricey; dinners at Le 58 run about 65 euros per person and Jules Verne dinners run up to $200, but both offer all the romance a couple needs for a night in Paris. [5]


The copyright of the article The Eiffel Tower: The Symbol of Paris, France and Romance is owned by Cheryl Weldon and permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

The Eiffel Tower at Christmastime