moontowers

Austin History Center, PICA 18419

“They were very concerned that it would affect the chickens and they wouldn't know when to lay the egg.”

What could shake up things so much that chickens in Austin wouldn't know the right time to do their thing? That recollection from a newspaper article can be heard in a documentary called The Last of the Moonlight Towers, which illuminates (get it?) the history of those iconic towers. Seventeen of the 31 original towers built around Austin are still standing. And though Austin wasn't the first city in the country to get moonlight towers when they went up in the 1890s, Austin is the last city that still has functioning towers.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/wadeferd

Moontowers Temporarily Taken Down

An Austin moontower on the corner of West 22nd and Nueces streets has been temporarily dismantled due to a nearby construction project, and another on the corner of Trinity and Cesar Chavez is slated to move over to Third and Red River.

Austin is the only city in the world that still operates under a moonlight tower lighting system, made up of those ethereal structures that provide large areas of illumination and – as every "Dazed and Confused" fan knows – the occasional party.  According to the Austin American-Statesman, Austin Energy plans to refurbish the towers that have been removed, and because of their designation in the National Register of Historic Places, any repairs have to be historically accurate. You can read more from KUT News about the towers.

Photo by Joey Parsons http://www.flickr.com/photos/joeyparsons/

Know how to fix a moonlight tower? Austin Energy might be looking to contract your services in the coming months. The city’s public utility is developing a request for proposals for someone to restore all 17 of the city's moonlight towers, or moontowers, as they’re often called.

“We can’t just put modern day parts on these historic towers,” Austin Energy spokesman Carlos Cordova said. “If we’re replacing something, it has to be exactly the way it was in 1894 when these went up.”

Moontower at night
Image courtesy Matthew Rutledge

Two historically significant moonlight towers, or moontowers, were removed to make way for the development of two downtown high-rise buildings, but both structures were completed months and neither moontower has been returned to its original location.