"We writers, painters, sculptors, architects, passionate fans of the beauty, until now intact, of Paris, hereby protest with all our force and our indignation, in the name of French taste … against the construction in the very heart of our capital of the useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower," wrote an angry collective including Guy de Maupassant and Alexandre Dumas the younger, reports The Observer.
It was February 1887 and the foundations of engineer Gustave Eiffel's 312-metre, 10,100-tonne iron tower, which would rise from the banks of the Seine, had only just been excavated.
Now, as the "monstrous" tower marks its 125th birthday, the controversy over why it was built and where, and the clamour from Maupassant and his friends to have it pulled down, has long ceased to matter. On Monday a new phase in the evolution of the Eiffel Tower will be officially inaugurated by the French capital's Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo; the completion of a two-year, €30m (£23.5m) renovation of the 5,000 square metres first floor.
It is a timely riposte to abuse from across the Channel, after John Lewis's managing director, Andy Street, claimed France was "finished" and described Paris's international Gare du Nord station as the "squalor pit of Europe".
The renovation is part of the Paris city authorities' attempts to promote the tower as more than a top tourist attraction but a living, working symbol of the French capital's dynamism and capacity for regeneration.
"Originally it was a challenge of engineering innovation; today the challenge is to continue that spirit, by modernising, renovating, reinterpreting the Eiffel Tower while remaining true to its history," said Jean-François Martins, deputy mayor of Paris. "It's a process of permanent reflection."
The work, which has involved much glass and many burgundy-coloured metal installations, has modernised the pavilions on the first floor, introduced access to the outer platform with its spectacular panoramic views of the city to those in wheelchairs, and added braille to signs and displays. A cinema room shows historic and recent film of the tower.
The project also aims to reduce the tower's carbon footprint by shifting the position of glass panels to reduce air-conditioning bills in summer, introducing solar panels to heat half of the hot water it uses, installing a rainwater collection system to supply the lavatories, and using LED lighting.
The renovated floor, however, has a new attraction that is not for the faint-hearted or those with vertigo.
Read more of this report from The Observer.