On this day in 1889, Parisians flocked to the Paris Exposition, which featured 237 acres of art, architecture, music and belly dancing. It was here that the 1,000 foot "Grand Lady of Iron," better known as the Eiffel Tower, first welcomed attendees to the massive celebration of French culture known as the Exposition Universelle.
Today marks the semi-official birthday of engineer Gustave Eiffel's iconic brainchild, the wrought iron lattice tower that is now the most-visited paid monument in the world. On this day in 1889 visitors were first allowed to visit the second story of the not-yet completed form, accentuated with electric lights.
Although now the tower is one of the most beloved monuments of Paris and the world, it was originally snubbed by the artistic establishment, including architect Charles Garnier and painter Adolphe Bouguereau. In a petition published in "Le Temps" the indignant artists bemoaned the "monstrous" edifice:
"We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection…of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower."
The petition continues:
"To bring our arguments home, imagine for a moment a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, all of our humiliated monuments will disappear in this ghastly dream. And for twenty years … we shall see stretching like a blot of ink the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted sheet metal."
Fast forward 124 years and lo and behold, the once loathed tower is one of the most romantic locales on the planet; Tom Cruise famously proposed to his now ex-wife Katie Holmes on the premises, and tourists snap photos of the landmark in droves.
See a slideshow of the famous monument over time below: