WHIM City with Spike Gillespie
In 1999, the City of Austin relocated the airport and eventually, a mixed-use neighborhood took over the old site. Technically its called the MILLER development, but lots of us—in honor of the spelling: M-U-E-L-L-E-R– call it Mueller. You say Miller, I say Mueller, either way I think we can all agree that the decision to keep the old air traffic control tower intact was an excellent one. The tower, celebrating its fiftieth birthday this year, is being restored to its original glory, its upside down bell-bottom design once again sporting alternating checkered panels of dark and light blue.
When I moved to Austin in 1991, I arrived on a plane guided onto the runway by controllers in that old tower. I was toting a ten-month old, close to zero dollars, and a suitcase or two. I had no plan, no job, no idea where I would live and no notion that this city would become my permanent home. After neighborhood hopping as a renter for fifteen years, I finally bought a house. Fate brought me full circle then, my house just blocks from the runway where I first landed.
As hike and bike paths sprung up in Mueller, I took to walking my four dogs there daily, admiring the amazing land and waterscapes that dot the 711 acres, but my favorite part of these strolls is not Mother Nature’s handiwork. Instead, I get most excited when the Eiffel Tower of Austin comes into view. It is a cheerful tribute to Austin’s old skyline, a gentle nose-thumbing to all those new skyscraping condo towers, and a reminder of our town’s appreciation for old ghosts and the nostalgic memories they conjure. In winter, I count on the tower to deliver the only Christmas ritual I don’t despise when, mysteriously, the word NOEL appears atop the tower, one of many tributes to Austin’s whimsical nature.
More than anything, though I most love the tower because it is a reminder of my personal history, a concrete and glass souvenir from a time when fate beckoned heretofore rootless me to a place I could finally, truly call home.
PS. We would like to extend a very special thank you to Brian Dolezal for letting us into the tower!