The Origin of the Eiffel Tower

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On May 6, 1889, the Eiffel Tower was opened to the public. Here's a little history.

Believe it or not, the Eiffel Tower was originally supposed to be in Barcelona. But thinking the thing would end up looking like an eyesore, the city rejected Gustave Eiffel's plans, and he was forced to repitch the project elsewhere. Luckily, Eiffel found a home for his idea in Paris, where the Tower could serve as the main archway for the 1889 International Exposition.

Amazingly, the Tower didn't exactly go over well with the Parisians, either. The enormous iron structure was immediately belittled by critics, and one especially harsh reviewer referred to the thing as a "metal asparagus." Truth be told, the Eiffel Tower wasn't supposed to stay up for very long. In fact, it was offered for sale as scrap and was spared only because it proved useful to the French army. (They found that its 984-foot height worked nicely as a communications tower.)

Thankfully, however, Gustave Eiffel's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad structure has managed to endure; the structure received its 200 millionth visitor in 2002, and has become one of the most recognizable man-made landmarks the world over.

This piece was written by Maggie Koerth-Baker and excerpted from the mental_floss book In the Beginning: The Origins of Everything.