Eiffel Tower With Big Cowboy Hat
In a state of towering oil derricks and spidery drill platforms, passersby do a double-take when they drive by the civic center in the Texas town of Paris. It's not just that dark metal replica Eiffel Tower -- it's the fact that it is adorned with a giant cowboy hat.
But then, if you were Paris, Texas, what would you have done?
There are fifteen American municipalities named "Paris," and more than a few have chosen to erect Eiffel Tower replicas to pay homage to their French namesake.
Both Paris of Texas and Paris of Tennessee commemorated their Eiffel Tower Replicas in 1993. TN's was constructed earlier at Christian Brothers University, Memphis, before being donated and permanently installed in Memorial Park in Paris, TN.
But at 60-ft. tall, the TN tower was edged out of faux-foreign architecture dominance by a mere five feet. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, TX was 65-ft. tall, built by the local iron worker's union. Tennesseans battled back by replacing theirs with one 70-ft. tall....
Texas town boosters knew they were on shaky ground for an enduring and unique civic claim (and reminders that they were the "Second Largest Paris in the World" and the inspiration for the title of the 1984 movie "Paris, Texas" were feeble at best). So in 1998 they added a large red cowboy hat to the tip of the tower, tilted to push a few extra feet into the lower atmosphere.
Many decried this as the dumbest idea ever, but to us it seemed in the spirit of other local attractions: a grave monument with Jesus in cowboy boots, and a junior college whose entrance is decorated with a statue of their cartoon dragon mascot.
Turns out the Cowboy Hat idea came just in time. The following year in 1999, Las Vegas almost humiliated all the little Paris's when they erected a 540-ft. tall Eiffel Tower Replica along the Strip. At half the height of the original (which is 984 ft. tall), this replica is nearly ten times taller than the other replicas.
But no hat.
Other Eiffel Towers: America's most elaborate simulation is in Las Vegas, a nearly 500 ft. tall version, with a nearby 2/3rd size Arc de Triomphe. There are also giant replica Eiffel Towers at Kings Island Amusement Park in Mason, OH, and Paramount's King's Dominion in Virginia, though both are overly wide mutations to accommodate observation platforms. A 20-ft. tall Eiffel Tower replica stands in Paris Park, Paris, Michigan.
Update - February 2006: Reader Herb Campbell notes: "Actually there is an oil derrick in this town, although there is no oil.The derrick is located at Gene's Flea Market on North Loop 286. It was moved here by the owner from an oil field in East Texas."
June 2005: A reader points out there are actually "no oil platforms or drilling rigs in or around the city of Paris, Texas. Paris is County Seat of Lamar County, which is one of only three counties in Texas that produces no oil or gas." We were finishing a delerious loop through central and west Texas and Oklahoma, where there were drills aplenty.