The Eiffel Tower in 1900

Eiffel Tower

In 1900, when the Eiffel Tower celebrated its 11th anniversary, it was no longer really a novelty.

But the World's Fair held in Paris that year provided the perfect opportunity to modernise the monument, and make it the City of Light’s main attraction once again.

Opened on 14 April 1900 by French President Emile Loubet, the 1900 World's Fair spread over 216 hectares and welcomed more than 50 million visitors over 212 days.

The Fair bequeathed several buildings to Paris, the most iconic undoubtedly being the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais.

The 1900 World's Fair was an opportunity to revitalise the Eiffel Tower's declining appeal.

Several plans for modifying the monument were suggested. One of the more daring was put forward by Stephen Sauvestre, an architect who had taken part in building the Tower.

His idea was to add two lateral towers to the monument, so that extra elevators to the second floor could be installed.

Although none of the plans devised for the World's Fair came to anything, the Eiffel Tower still underwent numerous improvements. The Tower notably capitalised on the period's technological advances to move into the modern era.

On the first floor, the internal passageway was widened by pushing back the building façades, which took on a brighter, more cheerful look. Four restaurants (Russian French, English and Dutch) were set up.


The second floor platform was enlarged with an external gallery.

The 1900 World's Fair also marked the advent of 'the magic of electricity'.

The 10,000 gas lamps providing light up till then were replaced by 5,000 electric light bulbs.

But the greatest modernisation work carried out on the monument involved the complete overhaul of the elevators servicing the Eiffel Tower's first and second floors.

In June 1889, five hydraulic elevators were installed for the use of visitors. 

They were a formidable feat of technical engineering for the period, as never before had engineers tackled such heights, or such loads. From the time they were brought into service, these elevators enabled hundreds of thousands of visitors to safely ascend to a great height and gaze out over the entire city of Paris.

But as they were based on a technology still in its infancy, Gustave Eiffel modernised the elevators for the 1900 World's Fair.

The Roux-Combaluzier elevators were replaced by two hydraulic press elevators built by Fives-Lille. Each consisted of two cabins with a 50-person capacity.

The elevators, vital components of the monument, were put under severe strain. Their annual journeys combined equalled two and half trips around the world – more than 103,000 kilometres. 

Today, a testament to the extraordinary technical engineering of the period, two of the elevators are still operating with the hydraulic technology of 1900, in the Eiffel Tower's East and West Pillars.

Credits: Story

Créateur — Société d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel
Iconographie — Parisienne de photographie, Collection tour Eiffel, Petit Palais 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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