In 1889, Paris hosted an Exposition Universelle to mark the 100-year anniversary of the French Revolution. More than 100 artists submitted competing plans for a monument to be built on the Champ-de-Mars, located in central Paris, and serve as the exposition’s entrance. The commission was granted to Eiffel et Compagnie. Eiffel, an architect and metal expert, receives full credit for the monument that bears his name but it was one of his employees—a structural engineer named Maurice Koechlin—who came up with the concept. Several years earlier, the pair had collaborated on the Statue of Liberty’s metal armature. Originally intended as a temporary exhibit, the Eiffel Tower was almost torn down in 1909. City officials opted to save it after recognizing its value as a radiotelegraph station.
Several years later, during World War I, the Eiffel Tower intercepted enemy radio communications. It escaped destruction a second time during World War II. Over the years, the Eiffel Tower has been the site of numerous high-profile stunts, ceremonial events and even scientific experiments. The Eiffel Tower has also inspired more than 30 replicas and similar structures in various cities around the world. Now one of the most recognizable structures on the planet, the Eiffel Tower underwent a major renovation in 1986 and is repainted every seven years. It welcomes more visitors than any other paid monument in the world—an estimated 7 million people per year.
Fulgence Bienvenüe, an engineer at Ponts et Chaussées, created the project, which was adopted by the Municipal Council on 9 July 1897. Work started on 4 October 1898. Line 1, which opened on 19 July 1900, connected the Porte de Maillot to the Porte de Vincennes and provided a service to the summer Olympic Games organised in the Bois de Vincennes. Parisians immediately loved this new means of transport. In 1901, Fulgence Bienvenüe planned an additional network of lines which would not leave any point in Paris more than 500 metres from a metro station. Work quickly began on lines 2 and 3 and then 4 and 5, etc. The first six lines were opened to the public in 1910. Immediately prior to the First World War, the 91km-long network included 10 lines and carried 467 million travellers. The following decade saw the network continue to grow, in particular through the extension of the lines to the suburbs (lines 1, 12, 9, 11, etc.). During the Second World War, several lines were extended despite the shortage of electricity.