The Moonlight Towers are an iconic piece of #Austin history and this month will be 120 years since the towers were first put up, The Austin American Statesman reports.
In May of 1895, Austin received 31 towers from Detroit, who was going to a more modern lighting system. There are 17 remaining towers, which are the only moonlight towers still standing in the entire world.
When the towers were purchased in 1894, Austin had only 18,400 residents and the contract for the towers specified that "The lights must be strong enough for a man with normal eyesight to read the time on his watch without squinting at a distance of 1,500 feet form the tower in any direction on the darkest of night."
The towers were erected in a quest to light the entire city as a response to the brutal "servant girl murders" that had claimed the lives of 8 people in 1885.
The first tower to be lit was the one in Hyde Park at 41st and Speedway. Legend says that a man named Gilbert Searight fell from one of the towers while working on it and died. A schoolboy also fell from a tower in 1930. His fall resulted in a
9-day coma and 187 stitches, but no broken bones.
In 1965, the Zilker Park moonlight tower was decorated as the Zilker Holiday Tree for the first time and in 1970, the moonlight towers were named Texas State Landmarks. In 1976, the icons are added to the National Register of Historic Places.
By the early 1990's, the towers were a shadow of their former shells and were restored just in time for their 1995 centennial celebration. Last year, $2.1 million was alloted to restoring the towers once again. The city will be restoring them over time at a rate of 3 to five towers each year.