The Eiffel Tower is possibly the most iconic monument in the whole world. You have seen hundreds of images of the Eiffel Tower for sure. But this enormous creature did not suddenly fall from the sky. Instead, it all started with one metal bar and eventually climbed to the sky with more metal bars. Let us see some amazing and rare images during the Eiffel Tower construction.
How did it all start?
The Eiffel Tower was born as a result of an Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair) hosted by Paris in 1889. They hold the event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. France wanted to create an iconic monument on the Champ-de-Mars, in central Paris, the exposition’s entrance.
During this event, 100 plus artists have submitted excellent plans for a monument, but the lucky winner was Eiffel et Compagnie! It was a consulting and construction firm whose owner was acclaimed bridge builder, architect, and metals expert Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel.
We cannot say it is fair to give full credit for the monument to Eiffel himself. The actual brain behind this structure was one of his employees, a structural engineer named Maurice Koechlin. Even though the Tower bears Eiffel’s name, Maurice came up with and also fine-tuned the concept. Good for Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel!
Look at the magical ingredients and the amazement in construction!
One piece of stone blew life to the Eiffel Tower in 1887. Assembly of the Eiffel’s supporters began on July 1, and the giant completed itself within twenty-two months. Eiffel’s factory located at Levallois-Perret manufactured all the elements needed for construction. It is fascinating to see that each of the 18,000 pieces in the Tower was explicitly designed and calculated to the accuracy of a tenth of a millimeter!
These pieces then gather to form new pieces around five meters each. Approximately 150 to 300 workers worked on-site to assemble this gigantic erector set. The team of constructors who worked on the excellent metal viaduct projects holds the responsibility of the work and the workers.
RIVETS is the bond that holds all the metal pieces of the Tower together. This was a well-refined method of construction at the time of Eiffel Tower construction. First, they assembled pieces in the factory using bolts. Secondly, bolts got replaced one by one with thermally assembled rivets that contracted during cooling. This process ensured a very tight fit.
This is easier said than done!
A team of four men worked to assemble each rivet! one heated it, another held it in place, a third shaped the head, and a fourth beat it with a sledgehammer.
Not easy, hah!
Therefore, only a third of the 2,500,000 rivets in the Tower were inserted directly on site.
Let us have a look at the invisible underground foundation of this giant monument.
Foundations of the Eiffel Tower
foundations for the tower’s legs made of Cement and stone. April 1887.
How workers prepare the foundation of the Eiffel Tower on April 25, 1887.
Emergence above the ground
The posts stand on concrete foundations that go a few meters below ground level. This whole structure rests on the top of a layer of compacted gravel. Each corner edge lies on its supporting block. Can you imagine the pressure on that block? Well, it is 3-4 kilograms per square centimeter! Each block joins with others by walls. The builders used watertight metal caissons on the Seine side of the construction and injected compressed air. This is to make them able to work below the water level.
This is how the erection of the metalwork started on July 18, 1887.
Can you tell how challenging it must have been to assemble this sky-scraping Tower in the 80’s?
The constructors used wooden scaffolding and small steam cranes attached to the Tower itself for this. They used twelve 30m high temporary wooden scaffolds and four larger 40 meters scaffolds to sandboxes the first level.
“Sand boxes” and hydraulic jacks allowed the metal girders to position to an accuracy of one millimeter! Later, permanent wedges replaced these gadgets. Despite all the hardships, it only took five months to build the foundations. More surprisingly, it took only twenty-one months to complete assembling the metal pieces of the Tower.
Construction of the legs using scaffolding. Each shoe anchors to the stonework by a pair of 10 cm diameter, 7.5 m long bolts.
Completed the first level of the Eiffel Tower.
Construction stages of the Eiffel Tower
Unveiling the face of Eiffel for the 1st time
On March 31, 1889, Eiffel unveiled its principal structural work to the world. A leading group of press and officials went on a tour of the Tower through the stairs. They reached the top with the hardest of the party, and Eiffel raised a French flag to the roars of a 25-gun salute.
However, the elevator work was still unfinished. The Tower was not open to the public for nine more days after the opening. The general public embraced the Tower in May, and it was an instant success with the public. Approximately 30,000 visitors climbed the 1,710-step climb to reach the top. Elevators entered service only on May 26.
The Eiffel Tower welcomed its first visitors in May 1889.
During and after the World’s Fair Eiffel Tower, a visitor’s hotspot, millions visited and were amazed by Paris’ new architectural wonder.
But do you know that not all the city’s inhabitants were as enthusiastic about the Tower by that time?
Several Parisians feared its structure, saying it is unsound or eye sore. This crowd includes the iconic French author Guy de Maupassant as well. He hated the Tower so much that he only went to the restaurant at Eiffel’s base, with no view of the Tower.
Do you know Eiffel had a permit for the Tower only for 20 years?
Finally the ownership was reverted to the City of Paris in 1909. The city had planned to break it down (Tower’s initial design was to dismantle easily). Still, as the Tower played an essential role in communication purposes, they decided to keep it even after the permit’s expiry.