The Eiffel Tower (French la tour Eiffel) is a metal tower in the center of Paris, its most recognizable architectural, cultural and historical landmark; an unofficial symbol of France and a favorite place for tourists. Built in 1889 and originally conceived as a temporary structure – the tower served as the entrance arch to the Paris World Exhibition of 1889. From the planned demolition (20 years after the exhibition), the tower was saved by radio antennas installed at the very top – the era of the introduction of radio has come. Named after its designer Gustave Eiffel; Eiffel himself called it simply – the 300-meter tower (tour de 300 mètres).
The official history. The French authorities decided to arrange a world exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the French Revolution (1789). The Paris city administration asked the famous engineer Gustave Eiffel to make a proposal. At first, Eiffel was a little puzzled, but then, rummaging through his papers, he submitted for consideration the drawings of a 300-meter iron tower, to which he had paid almost no attention before.
On September 18, 1884, Gustave Eiffel receives a joint patent for the project with his employees, and subsequently redeems the exclusive right from them.
On May 1, 1886, a pan-French competition of architectural and engineering projects began, which would have to determine the architectural appearance of the future World Exhibition. 107 applicants took part in the competition, most of which, to one degree or another, repeat the tower project proposed by Eiffel. Various extravagant ideas were also under consideration, among which, for example, a giant guillotine, which was supposed to recall the French Revolution (1789). Another proposal was a stone tower, but calculations and past experience have shown that it would be very difficult to build a stone structure that would be even higher than the 169-meter Washington Monument, the construction of which had cost the huge efforts of the United States several years before. The Eiffel project becomes one of the four winners, and then the engineer makes final changes to it, finding a compromise between the original purely engineering design scheme and the decorative version.
In the end, the committee stops at the Eiffel plan, although the very idea of the tower did not belong to him, but to two of his employees – Maurice Koechlen and Emile Nougier. It was possible to assemble such a complex structure as a tower within two years only because Eiffel applied special construction methods. This explains the decision of the exhibition committee in favor of this project. Having won the first prize of the competition, Eiffel enthusiastically exclaimed: “France will be the only country with a 300-meter flagpole!”
However, the project of Nougier and Kohlen turned out to be too “dry” technically and did not meet the requirements put forward for the buildings of the Paris World Exhibition, the architecture of which should have been more refined.
In order for the tower to better meet the aesthetic tastes of the demanding Parisian public, the architect Stephan Sauvestre was commissioned to work on its artistic appearance. He proposed sheathing the basement supports of the tower with stone, linking its supports and the platform of the first floor with the help of majestic arches, which would simultaneously become the main entrance to the exhibition, placing spacious glazed halls on the floors of the tower, giving the top of the tower a rounded shape and using various decorative elements to decorate it. .
In January 1887, the engineer Eiffel, the state and the municipality of Paris signed an agreement according to which Eiffel was granted for personal use the operational lease of the tower for a period of 25 years, and also provided for the payment of a cash subsidy in the amount of 1.5 million gold francs, which amounted to 25% of all expenses for the construction of the tower.
On December 31, 1888, in order to raise the missing funds, a joint-stock company was created with an authorized fund of 5 million francs. Half of this amount is funds deposited by three banks, the other half is Eiffel’s personal funds.
The final construction budget amounted to 7.8 million francs. The tower paid off during the period of the exhibition, and its subsequent operation turned out to be a very profitable business.
Construction work for two years, two months and five days (from January 28, 1887 to March 31, 1889) was carried out by 300 workers. Record-breaking construction times were facilitated by extremely high quality drawings showing the exact dimensions of more than 18,038 metal parts, for the assembly of which 2.5 million rivets were used.
Tower supports. To complete the tower on time, Eiffel used, for the most part, prefabricated parts. The holes for the rivets were pre-drilled at the intended locations, and two-thirds of the 2.5 million rivets were pre-drilled. None of the prepared beams weighed more than 3 tons, which made it very easy to lift the metal parts to the intended places. In the beginning, high cranes were used, and when the structure outgrew them in height, mobile cranes specially designed by Eiffel took over the job. They moved along the rails laid for future elevators. The difficulty was that the lifting device had to move along the masts of the tower along a curved path with a changing radius of curvature. The first elevators on the tower were powered by hydraulic pumps. Up to our time, two historic Fives-Lill elevators, installed in 1899 in the eastern and western supports of the tower, have been used.
Since 1983, the operation of the elevators has been provided by an electric motor, and the hydraulic pumps have been preserved and are available for inspection.
The second and third floors of the tower were connected by a vertical elevator created by the engineer Edu (Eiffel’s classmate at the Central Higher Technical School). This elevator consisted of two mutually equalizing cabins. The upper cabin was raised using a hydraulic cylinder with a stroke length of 78 meters. The lower cabin at the same time served as a counterweight. Halfway to the site, at a height of 175 meters from the ground, passengers had to transfer to another elevator. Water tanks installed on the floors provided the necessary hydraulic pressure.
In 1983, this lift, which could not operate in the winter, was replaced by an electric Otis lift, consisting of four cabins and providing a direct connection between the two floors.
The construction of the tower required special attention to the safety issues of continuous work, which became Eiffel’s greatest concern. During the construction work there were no fatal accidents, which was a significant achievement for that time.
When arranging pits for the tower supports, due to the proximity of the Seine River, Eiffel resorted to the method that he introduced in the construction of bridges. In each of the 16 foundation caissons there was a working space, into which air was pumped under pressure. Due to the increased pressure, groundwater could not seep into it, and workers could excavate without interference.
One of the most difficult problems for Eiffel was the first platform. Massive wooden fittings were supposed to support 4 inclined supports and huge beams of the first platform. Four inclined supports rested on sand-filled metal cylinders. The sand could be released gradually and thus the supports could be set at the correct slope. Additional hydraulic lifts in the foundations of the piers made it possible to finally adjust the position of the 4 inclined piers, which could thus be precisely adjusted to the iron reinforcement of the first platform.
Once the platform was perfectly level, it was attached to the ramps and the hoists were removed. Then construction continued on the tower itself. The work progressed slowly but steadily. She caused the Parisians, who saw the tower growing into the sky, surprise and admiration. On March 31, 1889, less than 26 months after the digging began, Eiffel was able to invite several more or less physically fit officials to the first ascent of 1,710 steps.
The original contract with Eiffel was to dismantle the tower 20 years after it was built.
The construction was a stunning and immediate success. During the six months of the exhibition, more than 2 million visitors came to see the Iron Lady. By the end of the year, three-quarters of all construction costs had been recovered.
However, the creative intelligentsia of Paris and France were outraged by the daring project of the Eiffel, and, starting from the very beginning of construction, they sent indignation and demands to the Paris City Hall to stop the construction of the tower. Writers and artists feared that the metal construction would overwhelm the architecture of the city, violate the unique style of the capital that had evolved over the centuries. It is known that in 1887, 300 writers and artists (among them Alexandre Dumas son, Guy de Maupassant and the composer Charles Gounod) protested against the municipality, describing the construction as “useless and monstrous”, as “a ridiculous tower dominating Paris, like a giant factory chimney,” adding:
“For 20 years, we will be forced to look at the disgusting shadow of the hated column of iron and screws, stretching over the city like an ink blot. »
Guy de Maupassant regularly dined at the restaurant on the first level of the tower (now the Jules Verne restaurant). When asked why he was doing this if he didn’t like the tower, the writer replied: “This is the only place in all of vast Paris where it is not visible.”
In October 1898, Eugene Ducrete conducted the first telegraph session between the Eiffel Tower and the Pantheon, the distance between which is 4 km.
In 1903, General Ferrier, a pioneer in the field of wireless telegraphy, applied it to his experiments. Since that time, the tower began to be used for military purposes as the largest PRRP in France.
Since 1906, a powerful radio station has been permanently placed on the tower. In 1907, a six-meter electronic clock was installed on the second floor of the tower, designed by the Russian engineer Romeiko-Gurko.
January 1, 1910 Eiffel extends the lease of the tower for a period of seventy years.
In 1914, radio interception allowed General Gallieni to organize a counterattack on the Marne during the First World War.
In 1921, the first direct radio transmission from the Eiffel Tower took place. Broadcast was broadcast, which became possible due to the installation of special antennas on the tower.
Since 1922, a radio program began to appear regularly, which was called the Eiffel Tower.
In 1925, the first attempts were made to relay a television signal from the tower.
Since 1935, regular transmission of television programs began. Since 1957, a television antenna has been installed on the tower, increasing the height of the steel structure to 320.75 meters. In addition to it, several dozens of linear and parabolic antennas were installed on the tower, which relay various radio and television programs.
The Eiffel Tower has also become one of the main and favorite places to visit by tourists from all countries, including the USA, Canada and Australia.
There is a live queue in which you have to stand depending on the season or not the season for a certain time. (Tourists who buy tours (excursions) from their tour operator, as a rule, do not stand in line).
Open hours, the tickets, the tips, how to visit
- Self guided walking tour, check the gallery
- Best Paris Night private tours by a car with Guide in English