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.
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!