Effiel tower by Gustav Eiffel

by Dr. Lori Verderame

Gustave Eiffel

The architect, designer, and engineer of the Eiffel Tower was the man for whom the structure is named, Gustave Eiffel (French, 1832-1923). Although the monument has no practical function and was simply constructed as an attraction for the Paris World’s Fair, the structure has become synonymous with the ideals of ingenuity, progress, and beauty.

The Eiffel Tower was the historic structure and main attraction at the Paris Exposition Universalle of 1889, also known as the Paris World’s Fair. This event marked the celebration of the Centennial or 100th year anniversary of the French Revolution of 1789.


The Eiffel Tower was constructed from wrought iron and reinforced truss work. The monument has become a long-standing example of the progress of nineteenth century engineering. Other architects and engineers responded to Eiffel’s monument with comparable structures of their own such as the Statue of Liberty and the Ferris Wheel.

The first level of the base portions of the Eiffel Tower is adorned with the names of great men in French history. The upper levels do not have such detailing but the height of the Tower is a main aspect of a visit to the site of Eiffel’s masterpiece. Today, the main attraction of the Eiffel Tower is to ride to the top and overlook Paris, the city of lights, at night.

The bottom portion of the Eiffel Tower is comprised of four independent buttressed legs, a decorative arch, and a triumphal gateway.

Eiffel Tower

In 1889, when it was built, it was the tallest structure in the world raising to a height of 1,000 feet or approximately 300 meters. The Eiffel Tower remained the tallest structure in the world until the Chrysler building was constructed in 1929 in New York City. The Eiffel Tower cost $1.5 million dollars to build in 1889 and Gustave Eiffel put some of his own money into the project in order to bring it to completion.

Global Landmark

During the early stages of its construction, critics disliked the Eiffel Tower because of its height. They believed that it didn’t relate to Paris. Parisians viewed Paris as a “low city” and considered the Tower too tall to complement the buildings of the French capital.

Eiffel Tower on July 14, 1997

Critics noted that the Eiffel Tower’s height and scale did not have anything to do with Paris. It is interesting to note that today, more than a century later, Paris and the Eiffel Tower are synonymous.

Can you guess when this photograph was taken? Notice the J-900 in lights. This indicates that there are 900 days until the new millennium or the year 2000. The photograph was taken on France’s Independence Day (a.k.a., Bastille Day) on July 14, 1997.