In 2016, a vacation rental company transformed a first-floor conference room in the Eiffel Tower into a luxury two-bedroom apartment, and four lucky contest winners got to call the tower home for a night. But there once was a man who could live there as he pleased. (This article was first published in Who Knew?)
Home on High
Gustave Eiffel was an architect and civil engineer. He built the Eiffel Tower—today one of the world’s most-visited tourist attractions—as part of the 1889 Exposition Universelle, which was taking place to celebrate the French Revolution’s centennial. It took just over two years to build—an engineering feat of its time. While the original design was only supposed to last for 20 years, Eiffel made sure he would be able to enjoy the views better than anyone. On the third floor, at a height of just over 900 feet, three times the height of Notre Dame Cathedral, was a small apartment. Decorated with dark wood, patterned carpet, and wallpaper, and with all the trappings of a typical Parisian home (there was even a grand piano), this was a sanctuary in the sky for Eiffel to study and entertain.
The Price of Privacy
When word got out in Paris about Eiffel’s apartment, he was besieged with requests to rent it. Everyone wanted a taste of tower living, but no price was high enough. The lucky few who were invited to attend his private parties were the dignitaries and influential men of the day. Among them was Thomas Edison, the American inventor, who spent time smoking cigars and discussing his inventions with Eiffel. He even presented him with a gramophone. This scene is depicted with waxworks in the restored apartment space for today’s visitors to view. And while you can’t hang out with Eiffel himself, there is a champagne bar on the same level to raise a glass to him.
The tower was initially designed as a center for scientific research. In his initial proposal, Eiffel explained how the tower was perfectly suited to meteorological and astronomical observation. The apartment included a small laboratory for the engineer to explore his key areas of interest: wind, air resistance, and aviation. Eiffel spent the last 30 years of his life using the tower for practical applications, including wind resistance experiments and as a giant aerial for radio broadcasts.
A Luxury Break
For a contest in 2016, which coincided with the UEFA Euro 2016 soccer tournament, the Gustave Eiffel room on the first floor was decked out with soccer-themed interiors and comprised a large lounge, an urban greenhouse, and two bedrooms. The apartment was situated 187 feet off the ground and offered guests panoramic views of Paris’s many sights. The apartment has since been turned back into a function space.