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10 Amazing Hidden Histories from the World’s Most Famous Places

hidden histories of famous places

Once a place is famous, consistent attempts are made to find its most minute details. The place’s past is studied, the structure is investigated and it is subjected to continuous research. However, to assume that every story about the place is widespread is a bit of an overstep. Sometimes, the most popular places hide the most amazing historical stories. With that being said, here’s a list of 10 amazing hidden histories from the world’s most famous places.

1. The Eiffel Tower was originally intended to stand from 1889 to 1909 only. It was saved only because of its use as an army radio transmitter. Its concession was extended for the next 70 years and lasted beyond that. Tourist attractions and further modifications kept the tower alive.

Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower was inaugurated on 31 March 1889. The tower was not open to the public for a couple of months.

Gustave Eiffel, the owner of the tower, had contributed 80% to its construction. He was therefore permitted to keep the structure for 20 years. After that concession, the government of Paris was simply going to dismantle it into scrap.

The builder had to find an excuse to extend this period so he came up with its scientific uses. In 1898, he funded experiments and started wireless telegraphy by erecting an antenna on top of the tower.

Following years saw more antennae set up on the tower which grabbed the military’s attraction. The first underground military radiotelegraphy station was added in 1909. Noting its usefulness, the tower’s concession was extended by 70 years on the first day of 1910.        

More than 100 antennae are working for radio and television broadcasting. (1, 2)

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2. The governor of New York would not allow city funds to be used to build the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Therefore, the statue almost wasn’t erected, but Joseph Pulitzer’s newspaper articles inspired 160,000 people to donate. Even if the majority of donations were less than $1, they raised over $100,000 in just five months.

Statue of Liberty
Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Image credits: guides.loc.gov

The Statue of Liberty was a diplomatic gift from France to the US. After receiving the gift, the US government struggled with gathering $250,000 for a granite plinth for the statue.

American Committee of the Statue of Liberty tried their best but missed the target by more than a third. Grover Cleveland, the governor of New York, rejected the use of city funds for the pedestal.

Baltimore, Boston, San Francisco, and Philadelphia agreed to help but in exchange for the relocation of the statue itself.

When all sources of hope died, a renowned publisher, Joseph Pulitzer, initiated a fundraising campaign in his newspaper. The name of the newspaper was The New York World.

Children, politicians, businessmen, street cleaners, etc., everyone donated, and the sum reached $101,091. The leftover money was gifted to the sculptor as royalty.

The type of campaign that Pulitzer ran is called a “crowdfunding” project today. (Source)

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3. In 1915, Stonehenge was put for auction and Cecil Chubb bought it on a whim. It is guessed that he bought the monument as a present for his wife, but she was less than pleased. Chubb donated the stones to the nation in 1918 and became the last person to own them.

Stonehenge
Stonehenge

This popular heritage site went up for sale on 21 September 1915 at an auction in Salisbury, Wiltshire. Chubb paid £6,600 and said, he bought it “on a whim.”

Chubb’s wife wasn’t pleased with the romantic gift. Stonehenge seemed unreasonably expensive to her. She reportedly said that she instead wanted a set of curtains at the auction, and Chubb bought something rather different.

On 16 October 1918, Chubb donated Stonehenge to the state via a gift deed. The following year, Chubb’s generosity was acknowledged by Prime Minister Lloyd George. He became Sir Cecil Chubb and was entitled as the First Baronet of Stonehenge.

While donating, he stipulated that the locals should pay nothing to enter the monument. Also, the visitors must not pay “a sum exceeding one shilling.”

Chubb died in 1934, and his baronetcy ended with his son John’s death in 1957. (Source)

4. The construction of the suspension bridge at Niagara Falls started in 1847. The engineers needed to secure a line across the 800-foot chasm. The lead engineer of the project came up with an ingenious solution of holding a kite-flying contest. They eventually paid a local boy $10 for securing the first line over the river.

Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge
Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge. Image credits: Wikipedia

It was extremely tough to get past the Whirlpool Rapids since there were no helicopters at this time. Swimming the cable across was also difficult and dangerous because of the fast-flowing waters.

So, the organizers declared a contest to “fly” the cable across. The first person to fly a kite from the American side to the Canadian side was promised $10 as the prize. Homan Walsh, an American teenager, won the contest in the springtime of 1847.

The kite was attached to a light rope which then was used to pull a heavier one. The heavier rope, in turn, pulled an even heavier one and so on. This went on until finally a steel cable was pulled across.

The Niagara Fall Suspension Bridge opened in 1848 and was replaced by the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge in 1897. (Source)

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5. The sculptor of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Gutzon Borglum, planned to make a secret room behind the hairline of Abraham Lincoln. It was supposed to be a doorway to a chamber intended to keep some of America’s most treasured documents. Nonetheless, the work remained unfinished due to the sculptor’s death.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

The doorway is located at the frontal lobe of Lincoln’s brain and is named the “Hall of Records.” Borglum had drafted an 800-foot stairway leading to a grand hall that measured 80 feet by 100 feet.

The hall would have contained legendary works of famous Americans and a list of US contributions to science, art, and industry.

The sculptor of the political monument died in 1941, and his idea never became reality. However, in 1998, the officials of the monument placed a record of the country’s history inside the same hall.

Moreover, there is a wooden box inside the hall that contains some significant US documents. They include the US constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and Borglum’s biography. 

The current interior design of the hall is nowhere close to what the sculptor had imagined.

The hall is closed to the public. The closest one can get to is its doorway at Lincoln’s head. (Source)

Also read: 10 Unusual Places From Around the World

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