The Eiffel Tower is a symbol of romance in Paris. Its tangled, iron frame has inspired generations of lovers, tourists, and artists with its beauty since 1889.
In fact, the Eiffel Tower was such an inspiring structure that it motivated governments around the world to try to capture some of the magic it brought to the City of Lights. According to History.com, the design was the muse for at least 30 replicas or similar structures. You can find mini Eiffel Towers in Romania, Russia, China, Mexico, and multiple cities in the US, including Paris, Texas and Paris, Tenn.
But the Eiffel Tower cast a different kind of spell at the turn of the century.
Published in the Le Temps newspaper on Valentine’s Day in 1887, 300 prominent Parisian artists and intellectuals signed a manifesto declaring their loathing of the half-built tower, referring to it as a “gigantic black factory chimney” that “even commercial-minded America does not want."
Harsh words, but a softer blow than some of the words the tower inspired among the British.
In an ironic twist, out of all of the copycat designs the Eiffel Tower has inspired through the years, the critical British were the first to replicate the idea immediately after some were done trashing it.
A mere six months after the tower’s completion, Sir Edward Watkin, a politician and railway entrepreneur, saw the potential revenue in the Pairs landmark and went about figuring out how London could get its own tower.
A design competition pulled in 68 proposals for a British tower, all at least 200 feet taller than the French design. Since building with iron and steel was still in its infancy, “this was to be the British Empire’s own symbol of engineering, architectural and economic might,” writes CityLab.
But it appeared that Mr. Morris’ words came back to bite the Empire.
By 1894, the winning design, called the Wembley Park Tower, was forced to halt construction due to financial reasons. They had completed only 150 feet of the 1,200-foot structure. Sir Watkin never saw the completion of the Wembley Park Tower before his death in 1901, and the last standing remnants of the dream were demolished in 1907.
While Britain’s take on the Eiffel Tower fell on its face, Watkin’s aspirations lived on in another way. In 1923, the Wembley Stadium, home of the English national soccer team, was erected on the same site. In the early 2000’s, builders rediscovered the tower’s concrete foundations while attempting to complete their own expensive, ambitious construction. The new soccer pitch was built on the original foundation.
Though Britain will never have its own Eiffel Tower, there are plenty of sports fans who probably prefer it that way.