People are known for their resistance to change, and most find a preference for things that have been around longer, especially in the cities they call home. The Guggenheim Museum in New York was compared to a lavatory basin by Woody Allen, the Louvre Pyramid was referred to as “a scar on the face of Paris,” and a Londoner declared that the Tower Bridge, built in 1886, was “excellently situated for our ugliest public work.” Ouch! But perhaps the loudest protests over an urban construction project unfolded after the proposed centerpiece to the 1889 World’s Fair threatened the familiar horizon of Paris.
Many Parisians didn’t want to share their skyline dominated by the dome of Les Invalides and the towers of Notre Dame with the unusual skeleton-like design of the Eiffel Tower, and hoped that the “giant eyesore” would be torn down in 20 years as originally planned. They were most likely influenced by some of France’s most famous and powerful artists and intellectuals, who in a letter to the newspaper, Les Temps, protested that this “dizzily ridiculous tower dominated Paris like a black and gigantic factory chimney, crushing all beneath its barbarous mass.” French writer Guy de Maupassant was openly annoyed by the tower but still went to its restaurant every day. When asked why, he said it was because it is the only place in Paris where one cannot see the structure.
Happily we all know that since its completion in 1889, Gustav Eiffel and his tower won over even its most ardent critics. Paris’s beloved monument is an iconic image of modern times, an enduring symbol of Paris and a remains a great source of national pride.
Interested in the history behind the construction of the tower and the 1889 World’s Fair? Then you will love the highly praised book by Jill Jonnes, Eiffel’s Tower.
Also fun to read: 10 Things You May Not Know About the Eiffel Tower.