Today on March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower officially opened for the World Exposition after two years of construction.
The Eiffel Tower was named after its master engineer, Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the now iconic structure. The French government commissioned the tower to be the centerpiece of the 1889 Exposition Universelle (World Fair) held in Paris — a commemoration to the centennial anniversary of the French Revolution. On January 28, 1887, construction officially began, and more than 150 metal workers were recruited to cast the tower's 18,038 pieces. The rapid construction period lasted a total of two years, two months, and five days. Once finished, it surpassed the Washington Monument to become the world's tallest structure — a record it held for more than forty-one years.
Interestingly, the city of Paris never intended for the Eiffel Tower to be a permanent fixture, but rather, it was to be dismantled ten years after the expo. Situated on Champ de Mars, the massive wrought iron lattice tower continues to dominate the French capital. As of 2020, it still remains as the city’s tallest structure. Today, it is a leading tourist attraction in France and the most-visited paid monument in the world. The Eiffel Tower reaches an impressive height of 324 meters.
Before its construction, many leading intellectuals and artists criticized the Eiffel Tower for its lifeless design. A Committee of Three Hundred — one member to represent each of the tower's 300 meters — was formed to protest against the project formally. Spearheaded by Charles Carnier, a prominent architect, the committee released a public petition known as the Artist against the tower. The group sent a letter to the Minister of Works and the Commissioner of the Exposition, but it fell on deaf ears. Their protest was mostly in vain as construction largely proceeded as planned.
"My tower will be the tallest edifice ever erected by man. Will it not also be grandiose in its way? And why would something admirable in Egypt become hideous and ridiculous in Paris?" — Gustave Eiffel comparing his tower to the Egyptian Pyramids
Despite initial resistance, the Eiffel Tower has since become one of the world's most recognizable architectural structures. At 2:35 pm on the opening day, government officials hoisted a large tricolour flag to the accompaniment of a 25-gun salute. Gustave Eiffel then took government officials and members of the press up the tower for a tour. Since the lifts weren't in operation yet, the group ascended the tower on foot. The 1,710 step climb took about an hour to complete. Gustave invited many celebrities and influential people, including the Prince of Wales and Thomas Edison. By the end of the exposition, nearly two million people had visited the Eiffel Tower. Today, an estimated seven million tourists flock to the site every year.