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Five things you should know about the Zilker moonlight tower

The Zilker Park moonlight tower, which most people recognize as the Zilker Tree when it’s decked out in Christmas lights, was taken down in April to be repaired and restored. Austin Energy contractors reassembled it Wednesday. Here are five things you should know:

1. The 16-story-high structure is one of the original 31 moontowers that made up Austin’s first urban lighting system in 1895, back when the population was about 18,400. Each tower provided artificial light for up to a quarter-mile around.

2. Only 17 original towers still stand; they’re on the National Register of Historic Places.

3. The original six manually lighted, carbon arc lamps were first replaced by incandescent lamps in the 1920s and then by mercury vapor lamps in 1936. Austin Energy contractors on Wednesday installed LED light bulbs that will save about 131,400 kilowatt-hours annually, the utility says.

4. Contractors took apart the tower and sandblasted the components to remove old paint, corrosion and dirt. Parts were tested for cracks and holes, then repaired, repainted and reassembled.

5. Every winter since 1967, the tower transforms into the Zilker Tree, with 39 streamers holding 3,309 light bulbs forming an illuminated cone of holiday delight.

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