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Moonlight Towers Project


Moonlight Towers Project



  • On March 19, 1894 the City Council approved a proposal to order 31 towers from the Fort Wayne Electric Company in Fort Wayne, Indiana for a total cost of $70,000 in cash. Construction started in late 1894 on the towers.
  • Tallest structure(s) in Austin when built in 1895, not counting the Texas State Capitol.
  • The towers earned Austin the nickname 'The City of Enternal Moonlight'. The towers also emit a purple-colored glow, earning Austin another nickname 'City of the Violet Crown'. This nickname also refers to the Texas sunsets.
  • 17 towers of the original 31 still stand in downtown and the inner city. Another 14 towers fell into disrepair and some were even destroyed by car accidents.
  • When the towers were built, it was said that a gentleman could read his pocket watch from a distance of 1,500 feet of the towers. In 1936, this distance jumped to 3,000 feet after the addition of mercury-vapor lamps.
  • The towers were lit for the very first time on May 6, 1895. Since then the towers have become landmarks and some of the most famous icons of Austin's skyline. In 1993 there was a $1.3 million restoration project, which was completed in time for the towers' 100th anniversary.
  • The towers have only been without illumination on three occasions: in 1900 a major flood destroyed Austin's Granite Dam resulting in electricity rationing; in 1905 power was denied due to a dispute between the City of Austin and the Water & Light Commission; and in 1973 disruption was caused by the energy crisis.
  • During World War II, each tower's power was shut off individually as part of the city's black-out contingency. Later, the system was centralized so that power could be cut via a single switch.
  • The towers originally used carbon arc lighting. In 1925 they were switched to incandescent bulbs. In 1936 mercury-vapor bulbs were installed which are still in use today. The towers use six 6,400 watt bulbs.
  • When the towers were proposed, farmers feared their crops of corn would grow 24 hours a day creating huge vegetables too difficult to harvest. Others worried that chickens would lay eggs night and day and that grass would be so overgrown and tall that it would take an axe to chop it down.
  • Austin's Moonlight Towers are the oldest remaining urban lighting system in the United States. The towers are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • A common assumption is that the towers were placed around Central Austin forming a star shaped pattern. This is not true however.



Involved Companies

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# Building Height Floors Building type Year Status
1 nightview-christmas-2001-patriotic-lighting-scheme-following-the-9-11-attacks Moonlight Tower - Zilker Tree 165 ft - mast (wired) 1895
2 Moonlight Tower - 4th & Nueces 165 ft - mast (wired) 1895
3 Moonlight Tower - 15th & San Antonio 165 ft - mast (wired) 1895
4 Moonlight Tower - 22nd & Nueces 165 ft - mast (wired) 1895
5 Moonlight Tower - Leona & Pennslyvania 165 ft - mast (wired) 1895
6 Moonlight Tower - 11th & Lydia 165 ft - mast (wired) 1895
7 Moonlight Tower - 11th & Trinity 165 ft - mast (wired) 1895
8 Moonlight Tower - 13th & Coleta 165 ft - mast (wired) 1895
9 Moonlight Tower - 12th & Rio Grande 165 ft - mast (wired) 1895
10 Moonlight Tower - 41st & Speedway 165 ft - mast (wired) 1895
11 Moonlight Tower - 9th & Guadalupe 165 ft - mast (wired) 1895
12 Moonlight Tower - 12th & Blanco 165 ft - mast (wired) 1895
13 Moonlight Tower - Eastside & Leland 165 ft - mast (wired) 1895
14 Moonlight Tower - Canterbury & Lynn Street 165 ft - mast (wired) 1895
15 Moonlight Tower - South First & Monroe 165 ft - mast (wired) 1895
16 exterior-view-to-the-east-from-cesar-chavez-street Moonlight Tower - Cesar Chavez & Trinity 165 ft - mast (wired) 1895
17 Moonlight Tower - 19th & Chicon 165 ft - mast (wired) 1895
under construction
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