Saturday, March 31, 2007

March 31:


On March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower is dedicated in Paris in a
ceremony presided over by Gustave Eiffel, the tower's designer, and
attended by French Prime Minister Pierre Tirard, a handful of other
dignitaries, and 200 construction workers.

In 1889, to honor of the centenary of the French Revolution, the
French government planned an international exposition and announced a
design competition for a monument to be built on the Champ-de-Mars in
central Paris. Out of more than 100 designs submitted, the Centennial
Committee chose Eiffel's plan of an open-lattice wrought-iron tower
that would reach almost 1,000 feet above Paris and be the world's
tallest man-made structure. Eiffel, a noted bridge builder, was a
master of metal construction and designed the framework of the Statue
of Liberty that had recently been erected in New York Harbor.

Eiffel's tower was greeted with skepticism from critics who argued
that it would be structurally unsound, and indignation from others who
thought it would be an eyesore in the heart of Paris. Unperturbed,
Eiffel completed his great tower under budget in just two years. Only
one worker lost his life during construction, which at the time was a
remarkably low casualty number for a project of that magnitude. The
light, airy structure was by all accounts a technological wonder and
within a few decades came to be regarded as an architectural

The Eiffel Tower is 984 feet tall and consists of an iron framework
supported on four masonry piers, from which rise four columns that
unite to form a single vertical tower. Platforms, each with an
observation deck, are at three levels. Elevators ascend the piers on a
curve, and Eiffel contracted the Otis Elevator Company of the United
States to design the tower's famous glass-cage elevators.

The elevators were not completed by March 31, 1889, however, so
Gustave Eiffel ascended the tower's stairs with a few hardy companions
and raised an enormous French tricolor on the structure's flagpole.
Fireworks were then set off from the second platform. Eiffel and his
party descended, and the architect addressed the guests and about 200
workers. In early May, the Paris International Exposition opened, and
the tower served as the entrance gateway to the giant fair.

The Eiffel Tower remained the world's tallest man-made structure until
the completion of the Chrysler Building in New York in 1930.
Incredibly, the Eiffel Tower was almost demolished when the
International Exposition's 20-year lease on the land expired in 1909,
but its value as an antenna for radio transmission saved it. It
remains largely unchanged today and is one of the world's premier
tourist attractions.

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