Its the Eiffel Tower’s 130th anniversary! On Sunday 31st March 1889 the Eiffel Tower was opened for the first time. Gustave Eiffel himself lead politicians and officials to the very top of his stupendous monument. La Tour Eiffel was built for the 1889 Paris Exposition as a means of celebrating the French revolution. The structure itself was built in a record two years, something almost unparalleled since.
Visitors enjoying the sights of the tower in its early days. The Trocadero is quite evident. This location is the Pilier Est (East Pillar.) Source: Geneanet.
Nice aerial rendering of the tower and the 1889 Universal Exposition site. Source: Twitter.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
The tower’s first floor in 1900 after considerable changes had been made by Gustave Eiffel. Source: Flickr.
The famous Citroen advert 1925
In 1925 the tower ventured into large scale advertising for the first time. This was for Citroen. The above image shows the lights with its stars all lit up. These morphed into the gigantic Citroen lettering (which can be made out with its lights off.) Source: Twitter. (Note: Twitter account no longer exists thus an archived image is used.)
Engineer Fernand Jacopozzi was hired to create the advert. This is why his name is featured on the picture above. Not only that the picture also commorets the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts, and the Citroen advert was specially created for this exhibition.
Now you see it! The giant Citroen lights come on! Source: Twitter.
The Citroen advert first began on 30th July 1925 and it was in daily use until 1936. It wasn’t exactly the same each year, the lettering varied a little and other embellishments were added to make the spectacular display more ornate, and Citroen funded this advert for just over a decade.
Perhaps the biggest changes the Eiffel Tower saw after 1936 was the onset of war and the siege of Paris. By August 1944 Paris had been liberated by the Allies and the French flag was once again flying from the top of the tower. A historic picture coloured by Marina Amaral. Source: Twitter.
Of course the tower continues to give spectacular displays of light and many events and countries are commemorated, even the Welsh, whose country was lit up in its colours of green, and white along with pictures of the Welsh dragon, for the football team’s historic win in the Euro cup 2016.
The summit changes
What did the top of the tower (the summit) look like in the very early days? And how did it change over the years? This section shows a series of pictures that shows its development from the 1900s to the present time. There is one important marker in this and that is the picture that was shown previously of the French tricolor flag being flown from the top of the tower in 1944.
If one looks closely at it, the general form of the summit section is more or less as it has been during the changes made in 1900. Yes there were aircraft lights and aerials but these were quite insignificant at the time in terms of size. Now that the war had ended, and television was about to become a big thing in the fifties, that would be the point where the whole top of the tower really changed beyond recognition.
To start with here’s a view of the open air deck in the 1890s and it has a little railway too!
The top deck at the tower’s summit. The door on the left leads into Eiffel’s personal room (or belvedere in French.) And yes it seems Eiffel was a railway enthusiast too he had his own narrow gauge railway at the top of the tower – or so it seems… The source was from Blogspot (The source blog is no longer extant however the picture is still viewable on Google’s servers) and I found the picture via Les Forums de Passions Metrique.
A modern day view of the top deck – no-one in sight! The changes over 130 years are quite incomparable. All the modern cons can be found at the top including bars, cafes, shops. Its been expanded considerably. In there somewhere they have kept Gustave Eiffel’s original room complete with Victoria decor and furniture. Source: Google Streets.
When one looks at the 1889 image one may assume Eiffel just couldn’t resist the temptation of having a narrow gauge railway run round the top deck of his celebrated tower! It was a narrow gauge railway but it wasn’t what people would think. This had a serious purpose and that was to carry the huge searchlights used nightly during the 1889 Exposition, and move them around in order that different buildings on the Exposition site could be illuminated. The following image shows the narrow gauge railway in its intended use…
Now one can see why there’s a railway track at the top of the tower! This was for the huge Mangin projectors, which were intended for ships but adapted for use on the tower.
The following images show the summit after the 1900 improvements which included the addition of an observatory at the very top (Mr Eiffel’s ‘secret room.’)
Plans for changes at the very top of the tower. Source: Wikipedia.
This is how the ‘summit’ or the top of the tower looked after the 1900 changes. This picture perhaps around 1910. The extra embellishments are the telegraph antennae and the scientific equipment right at the top. Source: Picclick. (Image has been replaced by a different one thus an archive of the original is used.)
The observatory at the top was Monsieur Eiffel’s ‘secret room.’ I do not know if its still there. There is still a room, in fact its a much larger enclosed deck probably for radio equipment whatever. How that has impacted upon Eiffel’s secret room I have no idea. Nevertheless the other room on the larger deck that is Eiffel’s reception room is still there and viewable to the public. Au Secret Des Filles.
Monsieur Eiffel’s room was a bit more substantial than that we see today. It had a door opening right onto the deck itself. Source: Twitter.
Some minor changes perhaps during the 1920s including radio antenna and the rebuilding of the small observatory as a circular shape. Source: Picclick. (Image has been replaced by a different one thus an archive of the original is used.)
The next stage of development at the summit. This is probably the 1930s. Aircraft warning lights have been added and the original summit deck has now had the first of what would be several masts added to its deck making the tower’s height well over 1030 feet. Source: Picclick. (Image has been replaced by a different one thus an archive of the original is used.)
Of course the tower’s summit is considerably changed these days as the following pictures show. The tower’s total height these days is 1063 feet or 324 metres. That’s an extra 24 metres on its original height.
The original enclosed deck of 1889 has remained quite the same as when it was first built. However everything above that, as shown in this view taken in August 2015, has changed completely. Just part of the original 1889 structure above the observation decks remains, however the platform from which Eiffel and his associates unfurled the Republique Francais flag no longer exists. Source: Wikipedia.
This is a picture from Google Streets I have lightened much to show the detail at the top of the tower. It is pretty obvious barely anything of the original structure remains, except perhaps internally. Its all to do with modern needs – thus the basic layout built 130 years ago would have not sufficed these days. Source: Google Streets.
The above image can be found on Google Streets and it does show despite warning notices at the summit forbidding such use, people will try to use selfie sticks (or even long poles as in this case) poked through the gaps in the protective wire mesh. Some of the results are pretty fantastic (like that shown below) however these selfie sticks/poles could make extremely lethal missiles should they fall to the ground.
Not for the faint hearted! A nice vertigo inducing view from the top of the tower. Source: Twitter.
The mystery of the Eiffel Tower stairs
There was an auction of ‘Eiffel Tower stairs’ recently with many claiming it came from the topmost bit, whilst others more correctly suggested it came from the bit between the second and third stages of the tower when the old Edoux lifts were removed and new ones installed. The stairs had to be removed (and rebuilt to more modern standards in a different position because they were in the way of the new lifts.
There are still spiral stairs extant in the tower especially on the second stage but these are somewhat wider than the others and more suited to larger flows of footfall because these connect the lower and upper decks of the second stage.
What did the old stairs look like? There are very few images that show the original appearance of the stairs up the tower. However there’s this picture which at least shows something substantial of these stairs.
Eiffel Tower stairs. Source: OBI Scrapbook Blog.
1888 image showing one of the tower’s new spiral staircases. Source: Rare Historical Photos.
There are few photographs showing the original stairs from the first to the second stage. This is one such and was taken during the Citroen Advert era, probably in the late 1920s. The stairs were removed by the 1930s. Source: Atchuup.
A contemporary drawing from the early days of the tower showing how these stairs actually looked – being a number of spirals interconnected by means of straight flights. Source: Architectural Digest
Plaque on one of the batch of original spiral staircases sold in 1983. Source: Antique Trades Gazette
The stairs from the ground to the first stage remain largely as they were originally designed, however those from the first to the second stage were rebuilt to suit the design of those on the lower section.
The stairs from the ground to the first stage are pretty much now (with modifications) as they were in 1889. Source: Wikipedia.
Those from the second to the third stage (the summit) were by large the most defying in all of the tower. It consisted of two complete sets of spiral staircases, each 79 m long (or 262 feet.) The reason for having two sections was because each section had to share the tower’s space with the Edoux lifts (which I have written about at length before.) Since the Edoux lifts met at a point halfway 203 metres (or 668) feet above the ground, the two spiral staircases too met at this point.
The long spiral stairs to the summit of the tower. Source: Korbella.
These long spiral staircases were the only means of foot access to the summit. In 1983 they were replaced (along with the slow Edoux lifts) by a more modern flight of stairs in the style of those lower down.
This is where the many examples of spiral staircase from the tower originated. These were cut into sections and sold in quite a number of lots, which is why they pop up fairly frequently at auction or antique sales.
In September 2017 the tower had seen a total of 300 million visitors since it opened in 1899! Source: Twitter
It has about 6.9 million visitors each year. 2017 is the most recent year for statistics and that page can be seen at SETE (Societe d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel or the Eiffel Tower Operating Company.)
There’s a nice history of the tower (in French only) at the Internet Archive.
The Official Eiffel Tower website (in English): Tour Eiffel
In 2015 Google created a nice doodle for the tower’s anniversary! See You Tube.