The End of Austin

an exploration of urban identity in the middle of Texas

Moonlight Towers

Click the image to see more moonlight tower (photo by Andy Mattern)

Click the image to see more moonlight towers (photo by Andy Mattern)

In 1895, the City of Austin acquired a novel street-lighting system from Detroit consisting of thirty-one 165-foot tower lights.

Their cool glow and looming height earned them the popular moniker “Moonlight Towers.” In the 1930s, however, the towers were all but obsolete due to the advent of newer, brighter street lamps that were closer to the ground. Over the years for a variety of reasons including public safety and urban growth, more than half of the original towers have been removed. Inspired by the famous German photographers Bernd and Hill Becher, this series preserves the remaining towers in a systemic archive. They are seen at their most visible moment just after they turn on at dusk.

In 1995, the then seventeen Moonlight Towers were added to the National Register of Historic Places and were celebrated with a $1.3 million restoration effort. However, only fifteen towers still stand today; two of the seventeen officially recognized towers have been removed due to new construction downtown. It is unclear if they will be reinstalled.

Andy Mattern is an artist who specializes in photography. He received his BFA from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque in 2002 and his MFA from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis in 2012. Mattern’s work has been a part of exhibitions throughout the United States in venues such as the DeVos Art Museum, Okay Mountain, The Lawndale Art Center, the Katherine E. Nash Gallery, and Prøve Gallery. Mattern’s work was included in the group show Regarding Place at the Peri Centre for Photography in Turku, Finland in 2011. Mattern’s work has been included in online publications such as Fraction Magazine, Humble Arts Foundation’s Group Show, and numerous blogs such as and His work is part of the Tweed Museum of Art’s permanent collection and various private collections. Andy Mattern was born in 1979 and now lives and works in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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This entry was posted on January 8, 2013 by in Built Environment, Nostalgia, Photography and tagged , , , , .
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