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10 Instagram photos that celebrate Austin’s moonlight towers

The city’s utterly unique landmarks now have their own documentary

Rendering of an early 1900s/late 1800s streetscape of Austin with bottom of a moonlight tower in foreground, a streetcar, and the state capitol in the background
Historic moonlight tower on Congress Avenue
Last of the Moonlight Towers/Facebook

Austin’s moonlight towers are popular and storied fixtures on the city’s landscape, beloved by locals and often fascinating to visitors.

The towers were purchased from the city of Detroit and installed around Austin in the 1890s. The 165-foot-tall towers, featuring six bright lamps at the top (originally carbon-arc, now mercury vapor), illuminate a 1,500-foot-radius brightly and were part of Austin’s early street-lighting program—often chosen in place of the many regular street lamps that would be required to light a similarly sized area.

Old black and white photo of moonlight tower surrounded by a field bordered by a small line of trees and a road, horse-drawn wagon
Moonlight tower on Speedway
Last of the Moonlight Towers/Facebook

The lights, listed in the National Register of Historic Places and featured in contemporary pop-culture moments (notably in the movie Dazed and Confused), also have a number of myths surrounding them. Austin is the only city in the United States that continues to maintain and use moonlight towers.

Tonight, the Austin History Center hosts a special screening of a new documentary film, "Last of the Moonlight Towers" by Ray Spivey and Jeff Kerr, which tells the story of the celebrated landmarks as well as investigating the mythology that came to surround them. (The directors will be in attendance for a Q&A after, and interest was so high that the Center added a second screening.)

In honor of the towers, the film, and the Austin History Center, we offer these pretty cool Instagrams of how the towers look today. Enjoy!

A photo posted by Kell Condon (@kellcondon) on

A photo posted by Larry James Rivera (@run_atx) on

A photo posted by Ryan (@zonacat10) on

A photo posted by Burt Dangerfield (@burtdanger) on

A video posted by Chris Sherman (@cvsherman) on