All you need to know about the Moonlight Towers in Austin, Texas in one infographic.
Austin is the only city in the world with Moonlight Towers. Austinites love them because the light is so romantic. And the towers are historic. And they’re weird and fun and yet another reason Austin is the greatest city on Earth.
THE HISTORICAL MARKER PLAQUE on one Moonlight Tower reads:
"This is one of 27 that remain out of 31 towers erected 1894-95 and in continuous use since. Their carbon arc lights then illuminated entire city. Now mercury vapor lamps provide beacons for many miles on roads and airway, from dusk to dawn. Austin is said to be unique in the dramatic method of lighting."
EACH TOWER is about 156 feet tall. Their heights vary slightly due to differing foundations and restoration.
WEIGHT OF EACH TOWER: about 5,000 pounds—they are iron.
80 RUNGS on each tower.
IN FACT, the towers were purpose-designed to appear "spindly." The idea was to discourage would-be climbers who would think their weight would collapse the tower.
WHY MOONLIGHT TOWERS?
They were a cost-effective way to quickly light broad areas. Each tower would illuminate about a quarter of a square mile. Many cities installed them in the 1880s and 90s—Austin was the only one weird enough to keep them.
A FIRST-KISS ZONE extends hundreds of feet in all directions from each tower. Many Austin romances began under the towers in artificial yet equally romantic moonlight.
YOU REALLY CAN just walk up to the base of any of the Moonlight Towers in friendly Austin, Texas.
SIX 6,400-WATT LAMPS at the top of each tower create the famous moonlight glow. They have gone from carbon-arc to incandescent to mercury vapor to LED over the years. The technology has changed, but the romance of the moonlight glow has stayed the same.
IN THE EARLY DAYS, carbon-arc lamps had to be tended to individually, twice daily. A central on/off switch for all of the Moonlight Towers wasn't incorporated until the 1940s, when the technology made it possible—and the threat of air raids during World War II made it advisable.
ERECTED, according to the City of Austin, "for the safety and convenience of its citizens." Citizens of Austin then: 18,400. Population of Austin now: 842,750. Do the math—50 times bigger!
MYTH: AUSTINITES FEARED THE 24-HOUR LIGHT would cause chickens to lay eggs around the clock.
Fact: This is true! (The fear, not the egg-laying).
MYTH: THE MOONLIGHT TOWERS were arranged in the shape of a giant star (as in the Lone Star State).
EACH TOWER BALANCES on a single iron pedestal anchored in concrete. Guy wires keep the towers erect and vertical.
A HAND-OPERATED ELEVATOR in the center of each tower carried maintenance workers to the top. Today, workers are lifted by bucket truck.