Today’s Find features a lovely letter-pressed bookmark our friend Kristen bought us while in Austin. The bookmark depicts something likely familiar to many who have ever visited Austin—the iconic, kinda bizarre Moonlight Towers, which are essentially gigantic turn-of-the-century street lights that light blocks at a time.
The bookmark was created by Austin’s Presse Dufour—a one-person design and letterpress studio that hand-mixes inks, prints on fully recycled stock, and employs a 1965 Vandercook press. Kristen picked it up when we were in Bows + Arrows, which we always try to hit up when we’re in town.
Illuminating public streets with electric lamps became common during the latter part of the 19th century. During this time, many U.S. cities were lit by tall towers that were able to illuminate large areas efficiently. The Moonlight Towers of Austin, Texas, are the last remaining of their kind in the U.S. Standing 165-feet tall, they once illuminated the entire city, giving off enough light for a person to be able to read a pocket watch 1500 feet away from a tower. Work began on the first tower at the corner of Speedway and West 41st Street in Hyde Park in 1894. All 31 towers were erected by 1895. The towers were assembled onsite and powered by generators at what is now the Tom Miller Dam. Austin’s Moonlight Towers switched on for the first time on May 6, 1895. Shortly after Austin became known as “The City of Eternal Moonlight.” From the original 31 towers, 17 still remain and can be found in the historic areas of the city. The remaining towers were listed on The National Register of Historic Places on July 12, 1976. In 1995, the towers were restored, down to every bolt, guy wire and turnbuckle, as part of a $1.3 million dollar renovation. These unique structures hold a special place in the hearts of Austinites.