Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Zilker Moontower Gets Removed, Temporarily, for a Touch-up

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

The Zilker Tree turns 50 this coming winter, and it’s getting spruced up for the occasion. The Tree, which most of the year is actually one of Austin's moontowers, was taken down Friday morning and removed from Zilker Park to be sandblasted, repainted and touched up at a shop in New Braunfels.

The city still has 17 of its original 31 moonlight towers (the uninitiated might remember the towers from" target="_blank">cameos in Dazed and Confused), and Austin Energy has contracted with tower restoration company Enertech Resources, LLC, to repair and restore all 17. They’ve fully restored one so far, but they have inspected all of them. None of the towers, more than a century old, have any major structural damage, said Carlos Cordova with Austin Energy.

The towers, more formally known as “moonlight towers,” went up in 1895, partly to light the way for residents terrified of an active serial killer stalking the city at night. The towers were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. That deems them “worthy of protection,” encouraging the city to maintain its remaining moontowers. Austin is said to be the only city that still has such towers in place.

“Austin is the only city in the world to still have working moonlight towers,” Cordova said. “I’ve always liked them because they’re a symbol of our weirdness, and our funkiness, everything that makes Austin special.”

The Zilker Park tower is converted each year into a holiday tree and strung with colorful lights. Austin Energy said the tower/tree will be ready by sometime this summer. They plan to continue restoring the other towers, completing about three or four restorations a year, Cordova said.