The Eiffel Tower: More Than Just a Tourist Site

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No trip to Paris, France, would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. The famous tower was designed and built by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World’s Fair. William Mulrow and other tourists might be surprised to learn that the tower, which took two years to complete, was not supposed to stand for more than 20 years.

Today, the Eiffel Tower still stands as the tallest structure in Paris and the second tallest structure in France. When completed in 1889, the tower was the tallest structure in the world at 1063 feet. In recent years, the tower has attracted 7 million visitors annually. Since it opened for the World’s Fair, more than 250 million people have visited it.

The French government authorized the payment of 25 percent of the cost of building the tower. Gustave Eiffel was responsible for raising the remainder of the funds needed for construction. In exchange, the French government granted Eiffel the right to retain the profits generated by commercial use of the tower during the World’s Fair and for twenty years thereafter.

Under the terms of the building permit issued by the government, ownership of the tower would return to the city of Paris in 1909. The original plans for construction of the Eiffel Tower included provisions for its demolition twenty years after the closing of the World’s Fair.

Construction of the tower began on the foundation of the tower in 1887. Three hundred workers participated in the construction of the Eiffel Tower over a two-year period. During construction, only one work died in an accident at the site. Eiffel’s focus on guardrails, screens and other safety precautions was credited for protecting workers at the site.

The tower was as popular attraction with tourists during the World’s Fair as it is today. More than two million people visited the tower during the World’s Fair. This popularity was part of the reason the city allowed the tower to remain standing after the permit expired in 1909.

The other reason was the importance of the tower in the rapidly advancing technology of communications. Radio transmitters atop the tower proved invaluable in making worldwide radio communications possible. During World War I, radio transmitters atop the tower were instrumental to victories for the Allied forces by blocking German communications.

Today, William Mulrow and other visitors to the Eiffel Tower will find it to be a much different place than it was in 1889. The elevators originally installed to take passengers to the tower’s different levels were replaced in 1987. An immediate benefit to visitors was that the new elevators operate twelve months a year. The original elevators closed from November through March because they relied upon a water system to move the cars, and the system froze in the winter.

The Eiffel Tower continues to play an important role in communications. Transmitters installed atop the tower serve as the primary source for signals broadcast by radio and television stations throughout France.

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Nick Barnett

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