Leon: Good heavens, is that thing lost again?” —Ninotchka (1939)
In A Nutshell
Opened in 1889, the Eiffel Tower is an iconic building, recognized throughout the world. However, unbeknownst to many, it contains a secret apartment within its highest level. Owned by Gustav Eiffel, the engineer who designed the tower, this apartment was fully decorated and frequently used for social gatherings with individuals, including Thomas Edison.
The Whole Bushel
Designed by Gustav Eiffel, the Eiffel Tower is one of the world’s most recognisable monuments. Completed in 1899 to a height of 324 meters (1,063 ft), it held the record as the world’s tallest structure until the construction of the Chrysler Building in 1930. It was originally built to serve as an elaborate entranceway into the 1899 Paris World’s Fair and, despite numerous attempts to demolish (or sell) the structure, it still serves the city as a major tourist attraction.
What many people don’t know about the tower is that the highest levels—which after several decades are now open to the public—play host to a private apartment built specifically for Gustav Eiffel, the engineer who designed the tower. Unlike the complex iron-weaved tower in which it lies, it was furnished in a simple manner and contained all the trappings of a modest 19th-century Parisian home, including carpets, wallpaper, cabinets, and a small bedroom. Despite this, the apartment was the envy of much of the city; indeed, Eiffel reportedly received several substantial offers for a single night in the apartment. Needless to say, such was his attachment to this highly coveted private space that he turned them all down.
Alongside these furnishings, the apartment also contained a grand piano. This formed the centerpiece of the many parties that were held by Eiffel during his stays in Paris. As many of his guests were dignitaries and other influential men of the age, these gatherings—despite often continuing into the early hours of the morning—were not raucous affairs. On September 10, 1899, one such visitor was Thomas Edison, who wiled away hours with Eiffel smoking cigars, drinking cognac, and discussing Edison’s latest invention, the phonograph.