The 60-foot Eiffel Tower that now stands in Eiffel Tower Park in Paris, Tennessee, had its origin at Christian Brothers University in Memphis. Designed to scale, it was created by Dr. Tom Morrison, professor emeritus of civil engineering; Jim Jacobs, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; and Roland Raffinati, engineering lab technician. Its 500 pieces of Douglas fir and 6,000 steel rods were assembled in CBU’s Buckman Quadrangle through more than 10,000 hours donated by students, faculty, alumni, and friends of the University.
In April of 1991 the Paris-Henry County Chamber of Commerce sponsored “Paris U.S.A.,” inviting the mayors of the 14 other U.S. cities named for the home of the original Eiffel Tower, to Tennessee to draw national attention to these communities as places of special charm and personality. During the two-day visit representatives of 5 of these U.S. cities and of Paris, France, toured the area and enjoyed its hospitality.
Recalling the Paris U.S.A. promotion, Brother Patrick O’Brien of Christian Brothers University contacted the Paris Henry County Chamber of Commerce in the fall of 1991 to inquire about the City of Paris’s possible interest in having the Eiffel Tower replica donated to it. With the encouragement of Mayor Richard L. Dunlap III and the City Commission, Virgil Wall (Chamber Executive Director), George Moore (City Manager), and Harold Plumley met with CBU officials in Memphis, and the City Commission subsequently voted to accept the donation. In February of 1992, the Tower, having been dismantled by the University, was loaded on a flatbed truck and brought to Paris by employees of the City’s Public Works Department. While the City Commission deliberated on a proper location for the Tower, its many parts were given two coats of paint and readied for rebirth in a new home.
Once the decision was made to locate the Tower in the City’s then Memorial Park (later named Eiffel Tower Park) off Volunteer Drive, employees of the Public Works Department set about assembling its parts and constructing a circular brick wall to surround its base. With the Tower in place, it was dedicated on January 29, 1993, in the presence of City of Paris officials, representatives of Christian Brothers University, and other local citizens. It was a happy occasion for publicly recognizing the University’s gesture of generosity and goodwill and for officially acknowledging the City’s appreciation of it. Set in the brick wall is a plaque noting:
TOWER DONATED BY CHRISTIAN BROTHERS UNIVERSITY MEMPHIS, TN 1992
Striking as its physical presence is, the Eiffel Tower basks in even greater glory as a symbol of liberty and equality, ideals that sparked the French Revolution and that many believe were inspired by the success of the American Revolution just a few years earlier. Who among us can fail to recall the now historic words of Patrick Henry (for whom Henry County was named in 1821), who, when addressing the Virginia Convention in March of 1775 in support of resolutions for armed resistance to the British, concluded, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
The Franco-American bond in the fight for liberty had its beginning just two years later, in 1777, when a young French aristocrat from Paris, the Marquis de Lafayette, brought his own ship and sailed to America to join George Washington’s staff as an unpaid volunteer. After several command assignments, it was in October of 1781 that he earned the undying gratitude of the new nation when his Continental Army force of’ less than 2,000 trapped Lord Cornwallis’s force of 6,000 at Yorktown, Virginia, leading to the British surrender. After his return to France he continued his fight for liberty during the French Revolution and throughout his life, being hailed as “the hero of two worlds.” The City of Paris, Tennessee, incorporated in 1823, was named in his honor and today, remembering his achievements, recognizes distinguished individual accomplishment by conferring the title of “Marquis de Paris.”
It is, therefore, particularly fitting that another Eiffel Tower, an enduring symbol of liberty and equality, now stands tall and proud in the City of Paris and County of Henry, in the volunteer State of Tennessee. Viva two towers, two worlds!