New Zealand’s Eiffel Tower opens

17 December 1889

Eiffel Tower replica at the NZ and South Seas Exhibition, c. 1889 (Hocken Library, S09-391a)

Just 8½ months after Gustave Eiffel’s famous Paris tower was officially completed in March 1889, a wooden replica Eiffel Tower opened at the 1889–90 New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition in Dunedin.

The exhibition offered the Austral Otis Elevator Company, which built the Eiffel Tower’s elevators, a chance to display its wares in New Zealand. It constructed the 40-metre wooden tower, inside which an elevator rose about 30 metres. The tower cost about £1200 (equivalent to $240,000 in 2020). A ride cost adults sixpence ($5) and children threepence ($2.50).

The cabin of the elevator accommodated 16 people, who could alight on any of the four landings, each of which was bordered by a wooden fence to prevent accidents. An Otis steam-hoisting engine provided power to the four strong wire cables. The cabin and landings were lit by electricity, and at the top, a large electric searchlight lit the sky.

The exhibition boasted two other Eiffel Towers. A 20-foot-high wooden replica stood in the gardens, while the Auckland court featured a model built entirely of whisky barrels and bottles.

By Nigel Isaacs