Contact us for Special Christmas Sponsorship Offer
The Zilker Tree Stands 155 feet tall and is composed of 39 streamers, each holding 81 multicolored, 25 watt bulbs, totaling 3,309 lights. At the top of the tree, a double star measures 10 feet from point to point. The double star displays 150 frosted bulbs. This unique spiral pattern of lights was created by City of Austin electricians. At its circumference, the tree measures 380 feet. The diameter is 120 feet. The base of the tree is made up of 19 utility poles, each 14 feet tall, arranged in a circle around the Moonlight Tower.
The Zilker Tree was initiated in 1965 by Mrs. Alden (Mabel)Davis, civic leader and chairperson for the City's Special Holiday Activities Committee. The tree was designed by City of Austin electricians Odie Bull, D.J. Kozlowski, Fred Scantlen and Merle Wheeler. On December 10, 1967, the first tree was lighted by Mayor Pro Tem Mrs. Emma Long. In subsequent years this honor has been awarded to the young winner of a city-wide tree coloring contest. The winner of the yearly art contest will throw the switch to illuminate the tree.
Austin was one of the first American cities to employ the modern street lighting innovation to create the Zilker Tree. Austin ran its new illumination system with power from its new City of Austin-owned electric utility. Most noted for their soft moonbeam effect, the tower lights were so effective that citizens were even able to read a wristwatch as far as 1,500 feet from the structures.
Today, 17 of Austin's original 31 Moonlight Towers remain standing as present-day reminders of our city's first illumination system. Austin is the only city in the world where origins of a tower lighting system can still be found. They are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, have been designated Historic Landmarks by the State of Texas, and have been zoned historic by the City of Austin.
Perhaps the most notable of these Austin structures is the replica Moonlight Tower which becomes the Zilker Tree. Moonlight Towers debuted in Austin over a century ago. In 1894, Austinites chose a forward-thinking approach to large scale community lighting by hiring Fort Wayne Electric Company of Indiana to provide and install a downtown system of carbon arc lamps situated atop 150 feet wrought iron poles in clusters of six.