The Eiffel Tower, which sits along Paris’ Champ de Mars, turns 128 years old this March. From 1889 to 1930, it reigned as the tallest structure in the world. Let’s take a look back at the Iron Lady’s construction, which spanned just two years.
The Eiffel Tower gets its name from its engineer, Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and constructed the tower (Eiffel worked on the interior of the Statue of Liberty as well). Here’s an 1889 photo of him and another man standing near the top of the tower.
Construction began in January 1887. The design plans called for 18,038 pieces of wrought iron and 2.5 million rivets.
Approximately 300 workers were hired to work on the intricate structure.
Thanks to safety precautions like guard-rails, only one worker died during its construction. In this 1888 photo, the tower’s first platform was completed.
The plans also called for it to be built in just two years, in time for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris that celebrated the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution.
The Parisian government launched an open call for designs in 1886, and over 100 firms submitted. Eiffel’s idea was chosen unanimously, while rejected submissions including a lighthouse, a water tower, and a giant guillotine.
Locals called the metal tower’s design a “mast of iron gymnasium apparatus” and a “truly tragic street lamp.” The iron trusses allowed the structure to withstand winds, and the arches allowed for a height that reached 986 feet.
It was the world’s tallest structure until 1930, when the Chrysler Building in New York City surpassed it.
On time and under budget, the Eiffel Tower was completed on March 15, 1889, and the grand opening took place three months later.
Visitors came to marvel at its metalwork.
They could ride one of the tower’s five hydraulic elevators to the top. Each were divided into two compartments.
On a clear day, you can see 42 miles in each direction from the summit. Below is an 1889 photo of crowds standing along one of the tower’s balconies.
Shortly after its completion, electrical workers installed a few gaslights inside glass globes along the tower’s beams, as seen in the 1890 photo below. For the 1900 Universal Exhibition, 5,000 electric light bulbs were installed.
Here’s a 1937 photo of a few workers replacing the lights.
In 1898, a radio antennae was added to the peak, which added 66 feet.
Today, more than 7 million people visit this iconic tower every year.
128 years later, it’s one of the most enduring symbols of Paris.