Austin's iconic moonlight towers to receive much needed repairs


Photo: The Austin City Council has approved funding to help restore the iconic moonlight towers. (Photo by Matthew Rutledge)

11.7.14 | 11:41 am

On Thursday, Austin City Council approved funding for a plan to restore Austin's iconic moonlight towers, taking an important step to preserving our city's bright history.

Originally purchased from the City of Detroit in the mid-1890s, the 165-foot-tall towers were reconstructed to help keep Austin streets illuminated after a rash of gruesome slayings commonly known as the servant girl murders. At the time, moonlight towers were a popular alternative to smaller street lamps because they could easily illuminate several city blocks at once.

The initiative is preserving more than just the physical towers, it's also preserving a cultural icon.

Of the original 31 moonlight towers, only 17 remain. The remaining towers are maintained by Austin Energy, who will be responsible for overseeing their current restoration along with Enertech Resources, LLC. This new plan is projected to cost $2 million and take three years to complete, according to the council agenda. The towers underwent a similar restoration process from 1993 to 1995.

Austin is the only city in the United States that still operates moonlight towers — and proudly so. Though the towers are no longer needed to help keep us safe, their silhouettes have been a constant presence on the city's landscape for more than a century. In 1970, they were proclaimed Texas State Landmarks and were recognized in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places six years later.

But the initiative is preserving more than just the physical towers, it's also preserving a cultural icon. From the keg party scene in Dazed and Confused where they are famously referred to as "moon towers" to the Moontower Comedy Festival, these beacons of light have become synonymous with Austin.

Before the restoration process begins, check out KVUE's comprehensive map of moontower locations and bask their historical light. Or you can see the Zilker tower in action during the Trail of Lights, where it's used as the center piece for the holiday tree.