The Eiffel Tower or the Ferris Wheel?

Have you been to the top of the Eiffel Tower? Waited in the long line for the elevator or taken the many (704) steps up or down?

Eiffel Tower Steps

Have you wondered why such a structure was created? Or did you just accept its existence as a symbol of Paris? A check off on your bucket list? A place to see a view?

View from Eiffel Tower

When I took the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower, I didn’t realize that its structure created an engineering challenge for organizers of the Chicago World’s Fair, which I learned while reading the book, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.

After the creation and appearance of the 986-foot Eiffel Tower in 1889, American engineers were perplexed. Designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel’s consulting firm, Eiffel et Compagnie, the Eiffel Tower was created for the Exposition Universalle (the Paris World’s Fair).

Now it was America’s turn. The challenge: to create an engineering marvel for the Chicago World’s Fair that would rival the Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel Tower

And they succeeded, but only just in time. Designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., the 2 million-pound Ferris Wheel officially opened on June 21, 1893, during the Chicago World’s Fair. 

London Eye

The original Eiffel Tower still exists: the Paris icon a tourist attraction as well as a dining destination. Though the original Ferris wheel no longer exists, various iterations exist in cities and fairs all over the world. Paris even built their own version in 1900, Le Grand Roue, for the Paris Exposition.

Next time, you’re dining at Le Jules Verne or riding through the air on the London Eye, remember the creators and the impetus for invention.

Trip taken: July 2010. Book read: 2014.