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The Rise And Fall Of The Moonlight Towers - Retrolight

The Rise And Fall Of The Moonlight Towers

One of the biggest changes in the world of lighting in recent years is the transition away from halogen and incandescent light bulbs in favour of more energy-efficient and versatile LED lighting technologies.

These bulbs, once ubiquitous, have, like other forms of vintage lighting, been replaced by more practical alternatives, the only bulbs left being those in the hands of collectors and enthusiasts.

On a much broader scale, this was also the story of the moonlight towers, some of the earliest public electric light fixtures ever installed in the late 19th century across Europe and the United States, with some still surviving in Austin, Texas.

At a time when light bulb technologies were exceedingly expensive, moontowers using exceptionally harsh lighting technologies such as arc lamps, allowed for several blocks to be illuminated at the same time for far cheaper than a row of lamp posts would, although some places would still use gas lamps as well.

They were lit every night by workers who would make the perilous journey to the top of each tower to ensure they lit up safely.

These towers were often looked at with a mix of awe and ambivalence, with the sheer audacity of the infrastructure at work tempered by the side effects such as the death of animals unable to sleep in a city of eternal light.

Others hated them simply for being what they considered to be eyesores, whilst in places where thick smog enveloped the air, the lights would inadvertently create an even stronger, starker darkness.

Eventually, incandescent lamp posts became the norm and the towers started to be taken down, either by votes, by force or by acts of nature.

However, the 15 towers in Austin still remain, becoming a landmark of the city and its surrounding area, as well as a celebration of the beauty of light itself in all the strange forms it can take.

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