Friday 30 March 2012

The Gigantic Black Smokestack

On March 30, 1885 in Paris France, an engineer read a paper to the "Societe des Ingenieurs Civils" which suggested a proposed tower which would symbolize:

"not only the art of the modern engineer, but also the century of Industry and Science in which we are living, and for which the way was prepared by the great scientific movement of the eighteenth century and by the Revolution of 1789, to which this monument will be built as an expression of France's gratitude."

The engineer was Gustave Eiffel who proposed a wrought iron lattice tower near the banks of the Seine River.  Originally, the tower was intended to serve as the archway for the 1889 World's Fair in Paris and would later be dismantled.

Image of World's Fair 1889 ticket courtesy

The idea met with resistance, especially from the artist's community, many of whom signed a petition published in Le Temps, voicing their concerns:

"We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection...of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower ... To bring our arguments home, imagine for a moment a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour de Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe..."

The response given to this letter indicated that the artists were voicing a mute point since the tower construction had already begun.  Interestingly enough, one of the artists to sign the petition, guy de Maupassant, would lunch in the tower restaurant in the years to come, indicating that the idea grew on him and many other skeptics.

Photo courtesy

So, construction began on Paris' tallest building, a structure which would stand 325 metres tall, the height of an 81-storey building, and weigh 10,000 tonnes.  It would be divided into three floors, of which the first and second would house restaurants.  The tower officially opened on March 31, 1889 and would be the sight of some interesting guests.

On September 10, 1889, Thomas Edison paid a visit to the Eiffel Tower and wrote in the guestbook.  A dirigible flew up to the tower in 1901, the first one to fly from St. Cloud to the tower and back again.  Lightning struck the tower in 1902. 

Photo courtesy

In 1912, an Austrian tailor jumped from the tower in his homemade parachute and plummeted 60 metres to his death.  In 1914, the French used the tower as a communication base during the First World War's Battle of the Marne.  During the 1930's, the tower was the site of a huge Citroen sign, advertising the French car.  The saying goes that Hitler conquered France in 1940, but not the Eiffel Tower for the French cut the cable lines for the elevators and Hitler refused to walk up the tower's steps.

American soldiers visit Eiffel tower after liberating Paris photo courtesy

A fire damaged the top floor in 1956, but the tower remained intact.  A plane flew through the arches of the tower in 1984.  By 2002, the Eiffel Tower had hosted more than 200,000,000 visitors. 

Photo courtesy

1 comment:

  1. If I did not see these old photos, I would never know what the Eiffel Tower looked like before its completion. And I do appreciate its beauty even though it is half done in the photos. I can see the hard work and labor put to it by the workers. And now, we are seeing the fruits of their labor. [Alejandra Hutchcraft]