Most of us only know a country by its buildings: When somebody says "Egypt," we think of the pyramids, and when they say "Russia," we picture those buildings with the towers shaped like onions. There is this very elite class of buildings so iconic that they transcend the country that built them. So it's kind of weird how often we almost let the things get destroyed.
5The Eiffel Tower
If Paris ever lost the Eiffel Tower, how would anyone ever know they were in Paris? We've seen movies -- every single scene that takes place there has to include the tower in the background as a cue to the audience. Judging from movies, Paris is just the Eiffel Tower and, like, three cafes.
Yet, once the Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889, many a Parisian gazed up at its majesty and moaned about how much they hated the huge, shitty eyesore, the towering metal monstrosity despoiling their precious Parisian skyline as if the Earth had spawned a robotic erection to fuck a cloud. Famed writer Guy de Maupassant was known to often eat lunch in the restaurant in the tower -- not because he liked the food, but because that was the only place in Paris from which he couldn't see the tower. It was even repainted orange to make it look better at one point, because nothing says "beauty and elegance" like an enormous safety cone.
Via Wikimedia Commons
And death rays. Death rays are key.
But the detractors knew that they wouldn't have to put up with it for too long, because the tower was only a temporary construction, planned to be demolished after 20 years.
That's right: When Gustave Eiffel designed the tower, he had to abide by the rules of the "build a huge freaking thing" contest for the 1889 World's Fair (the only reason the tower was built), with one of the stipulations being that it could easily be torn down when the city of Paris got the land back from a 20-year lease. So Eiffel ordered up a metric shit-ton of the cheapest iron he could get his hands on, tinker-toyed it up into the tallest structure the world had ever seen and said, "Eh, that looks like it should last at least 20 years."
"It's just a giant tower in a highly populated city. No need for any safety precautions."
The tower turned out to be the big hit of the exposition, which temporarily quieted its detractors, but when 1909 rolled around and the demolition date loomed, they renewed their harrumphing with a fervor -- they were just itching to finally be rid of the ugly thing. And it looked like they were going to have their way, right up until Eiffel grasped onto a newfangled invention in the hopes that it would help extend the life of his brainchild: radio.
Eiffel had this wild idea that radio seemed like it could become the next big communications device. And since radios needed a tall place to send long-range messages, the world's most hated -- but tallest -- structure seemed like an ideal spot for a radio tower. And it was: Eiffel stuck a radio transmitter at the top of the tower and offered it to the French Ministry of War as a communications base, enabling their messages to make it all the way across the English Channel. With war quickly building up with Germany and Italy, the radio proved to be a useful wartime instant messaging system.
"It's the Lunchtime Request Hour. Call in some Skynyrd!"
So the radio became the tower's saving grace, and just five years later, it proved to be well worth saving when it became the key transmission point to jam German radio communications, stalling their advance just north of Paris. From then on, the Eiffel Tower has stayed put, with the last serious attempt to dismantle it being in 1967, when a crazed Montreal mayor thought it would be the perfect thing to "borrow" for the World's Fair. But the tower remained, saving many a Hollywood production from having to print the word "Paris" on the screen every time the city is shown.