Sunshine Recorder

Link: A Tale of Two Towers

It was the crowning achievement of his career. And it was the beginning of a feud. At the 1889 inauguration of his famous Paris tower, Gustav Eiffel was feted as a French national hero. But among the few who did not appreciate his iron skyscraper was a patriotic Englishman named Edward Watkin. Watkin resented the Eiffel Tower for one simple reason: it stood more than five times higher than Britain’s national monument, Nelson’s Column. As far as Watkin was concerned, Gustav Eiffel had thrown down the gauntlet. He made a private vow to construct a British tower that would be taller, bigger and more spectacular than anything the French could build. […] “Anything Paris can do, London can do better!” was his boast. By the end of 1889, architects from across the world were working on designs for a tower that would be taller and more spectacular than Eiffel’s. Watkin’s idea fired the public imagination and his Metropolitan Tower Construction Company became a byword for national pride. The Company offered a prize of 500 guineas for the best designed tower. With more than a hint of mischief, Watkin even dared to approach Gustav Eiffel and ask if he’d like to submit an entry. Eiffel politely declined. “If I,” he said, “after erecting my tower on French soil, were to erect one in England, they would not think me so good a Frenchman as I hope I am.”