Alright, alright, I know you saw Dazed and Confused (now 21 years old) and you’ve wondered about the famous moon tower. Where is it? What is it? Keep calm…you’re about to find out.
Austin Moon Towers: What Are They?
Actually named Moonlight Towers, the moon towers found in Austin were produced by a company in Indiana in the late 1800’s and sold to cities across the United States.
In 1894, Austin purchased 31 moon towers from the city of Detroit. Powered by generators using the newly constructed Austin Dam (now Tom Miller Dam), these 165 foot towers spit out enough light from their six carbon arc lamps to illuminate a 1500 foot radius.
Why did Austin buy moon towers in the first place? Some people have theorized it was a response to the Servant Girl Annihilator. This may not or may not be true – the Servant Girl Annihilator murders took place roughly a decade before. Personally, I’d chalk it up to technological progress.
Over the years, moon towers stoically provided light to Austin’s denizens with Austin Energy carefully caring for them. The bulbs have been upgraded twice. First to incandescent bulbs in the 1920’s and finally to mercury vapor bulbs in the 1930’s.
Of the original 31 towers, 17 remain. The towers were officially designated Texas Historic Landmarks in 1970. In 1976 they were included in the National Register of Historic Places.
Where Are Austin’s Moon Towers?
Here is a list of Austin’s Moonlight Towers locations, including the ones that are now extinct:
Remaining Moon Towers
- Leland St and Eastside Dr (NE corner)
- Monroe St and S 1st St (SW corner)
- W 4th and Nueces St (SW corner)
- W 9th and Guadalupe St (SE corner)
- W 12th St and Blanco St (SE corner)
- W 12th St and Rio Grande St (NW corner)
- W 15th St and San Antonio St (SW corner)
- W 22nd St and Nueces St (SW corner)
- W 41st St and Speedway St (SW corner)
- Zilker Park (used for Zilker Park Christmas Tree)
- Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and Chicon St (SE corner)
- E 13th St and Coleto St (NE corner)
- Pennsylvania Ave and Leona St (NE corner)
- E 11th St and Trinity St (SE corner)
- E 11th St and Lydia St (SW corner)
- E Cesar Chavez and Trinity St (SW corner)
- Canterbury St and Lynn St (NE corner)
Removed Moon Towers
- E 1st St and Waller St
- East 6th St and Medina St
- E 14th St and Sabine St
- E 14th St and Sabine St (SW corner)
- Hawthorne (became either E 20th or E 21st) and Longfellow
- Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd (formerly called 19th St) and Lavaca St
- E 16th St and Brazos St
- E 2nd St and Neches St (Austin Convention Center)
- W 6th St and Westlynn St
- Dean Keeton St (formerly called 26th St) and Whitis Ave
- E 5th St and Brazos St (moved to Leland St and East Side Dr)
- 29th St and Lamar Blvd
- W 6th St and Lamar Blvd
- City Park renamed Emma Long Metropolitan Park (moved to Zilker Park)
- North end of Granite Dam (near power station and Ben Hur dock)
I know some of you readers have very sharp mathematical eyes and I’m sure you counted 32 locations. That’s because the tower in Emma Long Metropolitan Park was moved to Zilker Park. It now serves as the base of the annual Trail of Lights Christmas Tree.
Dazed and Confused
And what about the famous Dazed and Confused moon tower? Well, it was set piece. The park scene was filmed in what is now West Enfield Park which never had a moon tower. But that fact shouldn’t demean the 119-year history of these unique towers which have bathed Austin in light with the careful maintenance of the Austin Energy Department.
It’s comforting to know that despite gentrification and the californication that’s been affecting our city, unique iconic pieces of history like our moon towers have remained as reminders of Austin’s past. Even better, these Moonlight Towers still light up the night sky across the city. Once you check out a few of them, you’ll really see why they’re referred to as moon towers.
If you’re curious and want to learn more about Austin’s moon towers, check out “Last of the Moonlight Towers,” a documentary film by Ray Spivey and Jeffrey Kerr.
@ElDavidThomas wants to know:
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