Buford Tower is an iconic image to the hundreds of passerby’s on the Ann & Roy Butler Hike & Bike Trail, below.
What everyone knows
In 2016, the tower was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
What they don't tell you
A photograph from 1937 shows a large crowd forming a U-shape around the tower, watching as firefighters trained by spraying water into the building from various angles. However red flares and smoke bombs were used to create an artificial & illusionary fire.
Do it like a local
Take the family to Buford Tower during Christmas time to listen to the Christmas carols. However, allow me to share a secret with you about Buford Tower’s bells. After the tower was rededicated as Buford Tower, the former fire drill tower was transformed into a working bell tower and named the Kitchens Memorial Chimes, after its builder. However, the chimes are not your typical bronze bells, rather an electronic carillon was installed. Today, the bells chime the hours and play Christmas carols during the holiday season.
For the History Buffs
Have you ever seen what looks like an Italian Renaissance bell tower in downtown Austin, poised above Lady Bird Lake, and wondered what its purpose was? If so, you are not alone. This tower has a rich history and a couple secrets!
Buford Tower is a 67 feet tall, freestanding six-story concrete tower with reddish-brown bricks, at the end of Colorado St. on the north shore of Lady Bird Lake, in downtown Austin. The tower contains six small, stacked rooms with concrete floors. At one brief moment in time, Buford Tower was the tallest building in Austin!
It was built in 1930, for the Austin Fire Dept. to use as a drill tower where firefighters can train. Firefighters could practice aerial ladder work, flood the upper stories, scale the walls, and conduct rescue drills through the windows.
Due to its proximity to the Colorado River, firefighters were able to use the water source to test hoses and extinguish training fires.
It was named after fire department hero, Captain James L. Buford who died trying to rescue two teens that crashed their motorcycle in dangerous, rising flood waters of Shoal Creek in Summer of ‘72. As Buford tried to secure his rope on a telephone pole, he fell into the rushing waters. He was pulled out of a culvert and later died at a local hospital. One of the boys he was trying to save also died.
As decades passed, and the AFD built a new practice tower, Buford tower stood unused and untended for years, and it became infested with pigeons.
J. Roy White was the primary architect of Buford tower. He was hired by President and First Lady Lyndon Baines and Lady Bird Johnson to oversee the redesign and expansion of their country home near
Johnson City, TX that would later be known as the "Texas White House".
Local builder Rex D. Kitchens was its construction contractor. His widow, Effie Kitchens, led a public campaign to raise funds for the tower’s restoration after the city of Austin marked the structure for demolition.
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