Little Bits of History

How TALL Are You?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 31, 2013
Eiffel Tower under construction

Eiffel Tower under construction

March 31, 1889: The world’s then tallest structure is inaugurated. Today, it remains the world’s most visited paid monument. Named for the designer, it remains a worldwide icon, easily recognized even in silhouette. It took two years, two months, and five days to build and used 18,038 pieces and 2,500,000 rivets. The structure weighs 7,300 tons. When Barcelona turned down the architect’s plans, he went to the city hosting the 1889 Exposition Universelle. Which explains why Eiffel’s tower is in Paris.

The tower, measuring 1,063 feet, which includes the flagpole, remains the tallest structure in Paris. It is the fifth tallest structure in France. The tallest skyscraper is in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The Burj Khalifa i was built from 2004 to 2010 and was opened in January of this year. It surpassed the Taipai 101 as the tallest man-made structure on the planet. It is 2,717 feet from ground level to the roof. The Eiffel Tower is a lattice tower, and the tallest of these is the Kiev TV Tower in the Ukraine at 1,263 feet.

The Eiffel Tower’s unique shape led to criticism. Some claimed that Gustave was trying to be artistic while other deplored the design. Eiffel had worked designing and constructing bridges and knew how important it was for a structure to be able to withstand the forces of the wind. The shape of the tower was mathematically calculated to withstand those forces.

The original permit for the tower was for twenty years and then it was to be dismantled and removed. Instead, it has become a recognizable landmark visited by 249,976,000 people (as of December 31, 2009). To maintain the tower, 50 to 60 tons of paint are applied every seven years. The color changes with applications and visitors can vote for the next color. Three different shades of paint are used so the color seems to remain uniform when looked at from ground level. The current color is a brownish-gray.

“The Eiffel Tower is the Empire State Building after taxes.” – unknown

“Architecture is one part science, one part craft and two parts art.” – David Rutten

“The higher the buildings, the lower the morals.” – Noel Coward

“Architecture is the art of how to waste space.” – Philip Johnson

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Gustave Eiffel was born in Dijon, Côte-d’Or, France in 1832. His parents were busy running the family business so he spent much of young life with his grandmother. Gustave did not do well in school and felt it was both boring and a waste of time. With the help of some concerned teachers, he finally grew to love both history and literature and ended his schooling on a better note. He was more influenced by his uncle, a scientist, and some other scientifically minded friends. He went on to the Collège Sainte-Barbe in Paris in order to help him get into engineering school. He did not perform well enough to get to attend the more prestigious of these and only qualified for the École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures – more of a vocational school.

Also on this day: Equality – In 1886, Abigail Adams pleads with her husband to include women as voting adults.
Spring Forward – Fall Back – In 1918, DST was first used in the US.
Virgin Territory – In 1917, the US takes possession of the Virgin Islands.

Eiffel Tower

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 3, 2012

Eiffel Tower

January 3, 1956: A fire damages the top floors of the Eiffel Tower. The tower was built in two years, two months, and five days (1887-1889). It was built for the Universal Exposition – the centenary celebration of the French Revolution. The tower was first offered to Barcelona for an 1888 Exposition, but officials were not impressed by the design and were overwhelmed by the cost. The tower was designed by Gustave Eiffel and is the tallest building in Paris. At the time of its construction, it was the tallest building in the world. The Chrysler Building in New York City replaced the tower as the tallest building in 1930. Today, the tallest building is the Burj Dubai – a record achieved on September 26, 2008.

When completed in 1889, the tower stood 1,024.5 feet high (with the flagpole). There have been different antennas added and in 2000 the official height with the antenna was 1,063 feet. Eiffel worked with Engineers Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier and Architect Stephen Sauvestre. There were 50 engineers and designers who produced 5,300 blueprints. The tower is made from 18,038 individual parts produced by 100 iron workers. The tower is held together by 2,500,000 rivets. The iron framework weighs 7,300 tons and the entire structures weights 10,100 tons. It is 1,665 steps up to the top and there are 20,000 bulbs used for the Sparkling Tower.

The Eiffel Tower has platforms at 187 feet, 377 feet, and 906 feet. The tower is repainted every seven years, using 60 tons of paint. There are several elevators with a combined lift capacity of 3,360 people per hour. It is one of the most easily recognized buildings in the world and has been visited by more than 240 million people since it was built. The tower was originally given a 20 year permit and was to be torn down in 1909. Ownership reverted to the City of Paris, and the tower had proved valuable for communication purposes.

Gustave Eiffel may be most famous for his tower. He was 55 years old when construction began. He was already famous for his bridges both at home and abroad. He not only worked with latticework construction, but also designed the Statue of Liberty for the US and San Sebastian Church in the Philippines. He built from Bolivia to Belgium, from Puerto Rico to Portugal. His creative genius is displayed around the world. He died in 1923 just days after his 91st birthday.

It [the Eiffel Tower] looked very different from the Statue of Liberty, but what did that matter? What was the good of having the statue without the liberty? – Josephine Baker

It seems to be saying perpetually; ‘I am the end of the nineteenth century; I am glad they built me of iron; let me rust.’ … It is like a passing fool in a crowd of the University, a buffoon in the hall; for all the things in Paris has made, it alone has neither wits nor soul. (About the Eiffel Tower.) – Hilaire Belloc

I ought to be jealous of the tower. She is more famous than I am. – Gustave Eiffel

Can one think that because we are engineers, beauty does not preoccupy us or that we do not try to build beautiful, as well as solid and long lasting structures? Aren’t the genuine functions of strength always in keeping with unwritten conditions of harmony? … Besides, there is an attraction, a special charm in the colossal to which ordinary theories of art do not apply. – Gustave Eiffel

Also on this day:

Tokugawa Shogunate – The Tokugawa shogunate ended.
British Empire – In 1833, the Falkland Islands came under British rule.
Slurrrppp! – In 1888, the straw was patented.