When the Eiffel Tower opened in 1889 to universal wonder and acclaim, designer Gustave Eiffel soaked up the praise, but as if that wasn’t enough, it was soon revealed that he had built himself a small apartment near the top of the world wonder garnering him the envy of the Paris elite in addition to his new fame.
Located on the third level of the tower, Eiffel’s private apartment was not large, but it was cozy. In contrast to the steely industrial girders of the rest of the tower, the apartment was reported to be, “furnished in the simple style dear to scientists.” The walls were covered in warm wallpaper and the furniture included soft chintzes, wooden cabinets, and even a grand piano, creating a comfortable atmosphere, perched nearly 1,000 feet in the air. Adjacent to the small apartment were some laboratory areas equipped with the experimentation gear of the day.
Once word got out about Eiffel’s cozy little nest in the sky, Parisian high society turned simultaneously green with jealousy. Eiffel is said to have received a number of sky high (pun intended) offers to rent out the space even for one night. He declined them all, preferring to use the space for quiet reflection, and to entertain prestigious guests such as Thomas Edison himself who gifted Eiffel one of his newfangled phonograph machines.
Today, after being off limits for years, the apartment is on display for visitors to come and peer into. Much of the furnishings remain the same and there are a couple of rather wan looking mannequins of Eiffel and Edison. For the right type of architectural admirer Eiffel’s secret apartment could inspire as much jealousy today as it did when it was built.
Update August 2016: Several stories below Gustave Eiffel’s private apartment, a second Eiffel Tower apartment opened temporarily in the summer of 2016. Vacation rental company HomeAway transformed an unused conference space on the first floor of the tower into a new pop-op designer apartment as a marketing promotion. Four contest winners got a chance to stay inside the tower in July, 2016.
At 188 feet above ground level, the apartment — complete with a kitchen, two bedrooms, urban greenhouse — offers panoramic views of the Arc de Triomphe, the Sacre Coeur, and the Seine river from its floor to ceiling windows. Yet another space to turn Parisians and travelers worldwide green with envy.