AUSTIN (KXAN) — Every year around Christmas, Austin lights up the Zilker Park tree. Even though it’s a holiday tradition, some people don’t know about the significance of the large tower that supports all the lights.

City investing in longtime landmarks known as moontowers
Austin plans to pour more money into refurbishing 17 moontowers around town. Austin is the only place in the world that still has operational moontowers. (KXAN photo/Nabil Remadna)

It is a moonlight tower, or moontower, and one of 17 remaining in Austin.

The towers were built all over Austin in 1894 and served as street lighting for the city.

They became Texas State Landmarks in 1970 and were added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1976, but there is a price for upkeep.

The current contract was authorized for nearly $4 million, which goes towards repairs and refurbishing the towers. Austin City Council Thursday approved an additional $1.9 million.

“In 1995, the city undertook a project to refurbish these towers. They are very old,” said Libba Letton with Austin Energy. “And since then, five of them have been inspected and refurbished and reinstalled and reassembled, but there are still 12 more to go. Plus the ongoing maintenance these towers need.”

Each tower costs approximately $300,000 to fully refurbish.

Austin is the only city in the world that still has moontowers.