The Eiffel Tower was designed as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair to be held in Paris, France from May 6th to October 31, 1889.
Gustave Eiffel and his company were chosen to design and construct the tower to be located on the Champ de Mars in Paris.
Eiffel set about designing an iron lattice tower that would become the tallest human-made structure in the world at 1,063 feet, or about the same as an 81 story building.
The Eiffel Tower was to have three levels for visitors, with restaurants on the first and second levels. The third level was to be the observatory platform 906 feet above the ground. Eiffel also designed himself an apartment at the top of the tower.
Work on the foundations started on January 28, 1887.
Equipping the Tower with adequate and safe passenger lifts was a major concern of the government commission overseeing the Exposition. Although some visitors could be expected to climb to the first or even the second level, the main means of ascent clearly had to be lifts.
Eventually the contract was given to the European branch of Otis Brothers & Company in July of 1887.
The critical stage of joining the four legs at the first level was complete by the end of March 1888.
Although there were some 300 construction workers involved in the towers construction, only one person died thanks to Eiffel’s stringent safety precautions and use of movable stagings, guard-rails, and screens.
Inauguration and the 1889 World’s Fair Exposition
The main structural work was completed by mid March of 1889.
Then on March 31, 1889, a celebration was held to officially open the Eiffel Tower by a group of French government officials accompanied by the press.
Since the Otis lifts were not yet in operation, the ascent was made by foot with over 300 steps to the first level, 300 steps the the second level, and a total of 1,110 additional steps to the observation level.
An hour later, at 2:35 pm, after Gustave Eiffel frequently stopped to explain various features, a large French flag was hoisted to the accompaniment of a 25-gun salute fired from the first level.
After dark that night, the tower was lit by hundreds of gas lamps and a beacon sending out three beams of red, white and blue light.
Thomas Edison was invited by Eiffel to his private apartment at the top of the tower, where Edison presented him with one of his phonographs: this invention was one of the sensations of the 1889 World Exposition.
Edison signed the guestbook with the following message—
To M Eiffel the Engineer the brave builder of so gigantic and original specimen of modern Engineering from one who has the greatest respect and admiration for all Engineers including the Great Engineer the Bon Dieu, Thomas Edison.
The Eiffel Tower was not opened to the public however until May 15, 1889, nine days after the opening of the World’s Fair Exposition.
The tower was an immediate success with the public, and nearly 30,000 visitors made the 1,710 step climb to the top using the stairs before the lifts entered service on May 26th.
Tickets cost 2 francs for the first level, 3 for the second, and 5 for the top, with half-price admission on Sundays, and by the end of the exhibition there had been 1,896,987 visitors.
Eiffel had a permit for the tower to stand for 20 years; it was to be dismantled in 1909, when its ownership would revert to the City of Paris. The City had planned to tear it down (part of the original contest rules for designing a tower was that it should be easy to demolish) but as the tower proved valuable for communication purposes it was allowed to remain after the expiry of the permit.
Eiffel continued to make use of his apartment at the top level of the tower to carry out meteorological observations, and also made use of the tower to perform experiments on the action of air resistance on falling bodies.
Today the tower is the most-visited paid monument in the world; receiving its 250 millionth visitor in 2010.
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