The secrets hidden by the Eiffel Tower

Paris would not be Paris without the Eiffel Tower, the imposing structure that Gustave Eiffel built in just two years, two months and five days to be the symbol of the 1889 Universal Exhibition and which ended up becoming the great icon of the French capital.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
14 May 2024 Tuesday 10:25
3 Reads
The secrets hidden by the Eiffel Tower

Paris would not be Paris without the Eiffel Tower, the imposing structure that Gustave Eiffel built in just two years, two months and five days to be the symbol of the 1889 Universal Exhibition and which ended up becoming the great icon of the French capital. and even from the entire country.

Coinciding with the inauguration of the great event, what was then called the 300-meter Tower welcomed the first visitors. It was May 15, 1889. The enthusiastic public did not have it easy. The elevators were still not working and they had to walk up the 1,710 steps of what was then the tallest building in the world. The success was resounding. During the first week about 30,000 people ascended to the top.

135 years give us many stories and a few secrets. Perhaps the most significant is the apartment of about 100 square meters that the engineer had built 285 meters above the ground. He didn't lack anything: piano, table, sofa, kitchen, bathroom and three offices. Of course, no bed. And the engineer used it above all for his scientific experiments and to receive visitors, such as that of Edison or Buffalo Bill.

Another detail that Eiffel printed in his great work is a frieze that surrounds the first floor of the tower with the names of 72 wise men, written in golden capital letters, 60 centimeters high so that they could be read from the ground. For much of the 20th century, these names were covered with paint and were not recovered until the 1980s.

The Eiffel Tower, which was born painted red, had its days numbered. After 20 years it had to be dismantled. For this reason, Eiffel was quick to give it various uses taking advantage of its height, those impressive 300 meters: from scientific or meteorological experiments to the first tests of wireless telegraphy. In 1989, a first transmitting station was installed. The first of many. And, in fact, thanks to the antennas, the tower has grown until today it reaches 330 meters.

During the wars it also played an important role. In the Great War, thanks to the radio stations, important enemy radio telegrams were deciphered that allowed spies to be unmasked, including Mata Hari.

In World War II, a bunker was built under one of the pillars and the elevators were disabled to prevent Hitler from accessing the top of the tower on his visit to the city.

But for many, its big secret is how an iron structure with an expiration date still looks so perfect. And the answer lies in its constant maintenance. Every seven years the paint is scraped, the surface is thoroughly cleaned and a new coat is added. This involves a year and a half of work and 60 tons of paint. All for a good cause: that Paris remains Paris with that Eiffel Tower that has reigned on its skyline for 135 years.