Paris: A look back on the completion of the Eiffel Tower on March 31, 1889

Paris: A look back on the completion of the Eiffel Tower on March 31, 1889

On March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower is dedicated in Paris in a ceremony presided over by Gustave Eiffel, the tower’s designer, and attended by French Prime Minister Pierre Tirard, a handful of other dignitaries, and 200 construction workers.

The plan to build a tower 300 metres (984.252 ft) high was conceived as part of preparations for the World’s Fair of 1889.

Emile Nouguier and Maurice Koechlin, the two chief engineers in Eiffel’s company, had the idea for a very tall tower in June 1884. It was to be designed like a large pylon with 4 columns of lattice work girders, separated at the base and coming together at the top, and joined to each other by more metal girders at regular intervals.

The tower project was a bold extension of this principle up to a height of 300 metres – equivalent to the symbolic figure of 1000 feet. On September 18 1884 Eiffel registered a patent “for a new configuration allowing the construction of metal supports and pylons capable of exceeding a height of 300 metres” (984.252 ft).

There were 5,300 workshop designs, 50 engineers and designers.

The tower took 2 years, 2 months and 5 days of construction with between 150 and 300 workers on the construction site.

All the metal pieces of the tower are held together by rivets, a well-refined method of construction at the time the Tower was constructed. First the pieces were assembled in the factory using bolts, later to be replaced one by one with thermally assembled rivets, which contracted during cooling thus ensuring a very tight fit. A team of four men was needed for each rivet assembled: one to heat it up, another to hold it in place, a third to shape the head and a fourth to beat it with a sledgehammer. Only a third of the 2,500,000 rivets used in the construction of the Tower were inserted directly on site.

The uprights rest on concrete foundations installed a few metres (feet) below ground-level on top of a layer of compacted gravel. Each corner edge rests on its own supporting block, applying to it a pressure of 3 to 4 kilograms per square centimetre, and each block is joined to the others by walls.

The construction schedule
Works kick-off: January 1887
Start of the pillars’ mounting: July 1,1887
First floor achievement: April 1, 1888
Second floor achievement: August 14, 1888
Top and assembly achievement: March 31, 1889


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