The Eiffel Tower, which celebrates its 130th anniversary, was the symbol of "the industrial power of France" of the 19th century, according to Bertrand Lemoine, a historian interviewed on Franceinfo.
The Eiffel Tower, which celebrates its 130th birthday on Wednesday, May 15, was the symbol of "the industrial power of France in this relatively young Republic"Bertrand Lemoine, an architect, engineer and historian, specializes in the so-called Iron Lady. It opened to the public on May 15, 1889. "This is really the symbol of the progress of science, technology, construction, which marks many minds by its size, originality and structure", he added.
Franceinfo: 130 years ago, the Eiffel Tower was not really unanimous?
Bertrand Lemoine: When it rises in the sky of Paris, 300 meters high, it is at the time the largest monument in the world. It's still a surprise, something exceptional. Parisians are well aware of this. This 300-meter tower is the highlight of the World Expo, which opens in 1889, to celebrate both the centenary of the French Revolution and the industrial power of France in this (relatively young) Republic. The Eiffel Tower is really the symbol of the progress of science, technology, construction that marks many minds by its size, originality and structure.
Why does not everyone like it at the end of the 19th century?
At the time of its construction, especially at the beginning, many good spirits and artists like Maupassant or Charles Garnier, the architect of the Paris Opera, stood against the Tower. They criticize with very violent terms "the Industrial Tower", this metal structure that will rise in the sky of Paris, and which will, according to them, disfigure the city. Paris, at the time, is rather a white city, stone, reconfigured a few years ago under the leadership of Baron Haussmann. This protest makes a lot of noise. But the authorities want to continue. On May 15, the Eiffel Tower will be present as a gateway, as an opening, as the culmination of the 1889 exhibition.
After this universal exhibition, some have considered dismantling it despite its success?
The Eiffel Tower was very successful in 1889: two million visitors. But 20 years later, she settled down a little. The land on which it is built belongs to the city of Paris, and it had conceded only for 20 years to Gustave Eiffel, ie 1909. Meanwhile, Eiffel had been trying to demonstrate the strategic usefulness of his tower : it allowed to have an antenna of great height, able to communicate at a great distance, especially with the borders of the East of France. And that's what saved the tower, and motivated the city of Paris to extend the concession granted to Eiffel of 70 years.
Today, in what state is the Eiffel Tower?
The tower is well maintained. Many pieces have been repaired, changed, comforted. The elevators have been modified to be adapted to modern standards of efficiency. Today, they are all electric. Before, they were powered by steam engines. The main enemy of the Tower is the corrosion of iron, rust. If the Tower were not repainted about every seven years on average, it would rust and decay over the years. It will also be completely stripped, since there are seven layers of paint that have accumulated over the years, with different colors. We went from red, to yellow, then to brown. We will remove these layers of paint, put the metal bare and give a resistant protection, which will allow the Tower to continue to live his life for many years.