The Eiffel Tower in Paris

Paris’ Eiffel Tower turned 125 years old Monday (March 31). Happy birthday!!

Although the iconic landmark is one of the world’s top tourist attractions, topping 250 million visitors in 2012, it wasn’t always so popular. When it was built in 1889, its “modern” design stirred up controversy, drawing protest from French artists and architects who called it a “useless and monstrous” tower that would dwarf existing monuments like Notre Dame cathedral and the Arc de Triomphe.

The tower, built by Gustave Eiffel, was created to commemorate the French Revolution’s centennial during the 1889 Paris World’s Fair, also known as the Exposition Universelle.

At about 1,000 feet tall, it also celebrated advances in engineering, especially in the use of metal as both a structural and decorative material. At the time, it was the world’s tallest man-made structure, up until 1930 when New York City’s Chrysler Building was completed.