The structure that was the tallest building in the world in 1889 was built to be taken down.
This week, the RedState Department of History spent time watching the original Superman movie, noting that he was able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. We got to wondering what some of the buildings were that might have given the Man of Steel a difficult time.
One of them opened on this date in 1889, 130 years ago. The Eiffel Tower, which is now the world’s most visited tourist structure, was built to last only twenty years. Of course, it has lasted much longer.
The story goes like this: Gustav Eiffel’s construction form was given a contract to build a structure for the centennial of the French Revolution and the 1889 World’s Fair. It took just over two years to build.
The tower had three decks — the first two containing restaurants and the third containing an apartment where Eiffel himself lived for a time.
However, the seemingly traditional French need to argue over art played a role in the tower’s early history. Made of 18,038 pieces of wrought iron held together by 2.5 million rivets, some Parisians regarded the new structure as a monstrosity which destroyed the beauty of the city.
The story went that the novelist Guy de Maupassant would eat on the second-level restaurant every day because he said it was the only place in Paris where he couldn’t see the tower.
At the time, Parisians themselves would visit the tower out of curiosity, but to get to the top they had to climb steps, since the tower’s lifts weren’t functional until later in the spring. That meant climbing 1,710 steps to get from bottom to top — a workout by any definition. During World War II, the French cut the lift wires so the Nazis were unable to use the tower during their occupation of France.
The intended lifespan of the tower was only twenty years. Initially, it was scheduled to be taken down in 1909 — but when the French government saw the tower could be used for communications purposes, they decided to let it stay.
The eventual result of construction was what was then the world’s tallest building — passing the Washington Monument for the honor. It remained so for 41 years until the construction of the Chrysler Building in New York City passed it by.
Today, the tower isn’t even in the top 40 — the world’s tallest building is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which is nearly three times as tall as the Eiffel Tower — but it was the first structure ever built to exceed 300 meters in height.
The tower, of course, has a plethora of interesting facts:
Because it’s made of wrought iron, the structure expands and contracts with the seasons. In the summer, the tower grows by about six inches in height and contracts in the winter.
The tower can also be moved by heavy winds, swaying as much as 4.5 inches in inclement weather. But this means little to the seven million people who travel to the top every year, making it the most visited single paid tourist attraction in the world.
It also isn’t the same color all over — the structure is painted every seven years but is darker at the top than it is at the bottom. The process takes eighteen months and uses 60 tons of paint.
A fine photographic history of the Eiffel Tower’s construction can be found here.
Happy Sunday and enjoy today’s open thread!