UT Tower

The Main Building (also known as The Tower) is a structure located in the heart of the University of Texas at Austin campus in Downtown Austin, Texas, United States. The 307-foot (94-meter) tower of the Main Building has 27 stories and is one of the most identifiable emblems of the institution and the city.



Beginning in 1882, the historic Victorian-Gothic Main Building functioned as the focal center of the campus’s forty-acre location, and it was utilized for practically all functions. However, during the 1930s, there were conversations about the need for new library space, and the Main Building was demolished in 1934, despite the protests of many students and professors. The only thing that remains of the Historic Main Building are its old chime bells (known as the Burleson Bells), which are currently on permanent display outside the university’s Bass Concert Hall. In its stead, the modern-day Main Building and Tower were built.


Originally, the university intended to utilize the Tower as a library, with a dumbwaiter system transporting books from the top floors to students requesting them in a lower-floor circulating room. Every other floor had a library staff; students filled out paper book-request slips, which were delivered upstairs through a pneumatic tube. An 18-story dumbwaiter delivered the books to the pupils. The dumbwaiter is no longer used for this function since it was useless. The building presently mostly houses administrative offices, but it also houses a three-story life sciences library and the Miriam Lutcher Stark Library, which contains early and noteworthy editions of English Romanticist writings. The building is served by two independent sets of elevators, one in the front and one in the back. Several stories above the stacks and below a few top-floor offices house the university herbarium (Plant Resources Center). Some of these floors compile and analyze US Census data. Finally, two secure elevators serve all 27 stories of the Tower, with one elevator on the 27th level serving the 28th-floor Observation Deck. In the stacks, there is also a book lift that services levels 2 through 17.

Paul Philippe Cret designed the 307-foot (94-meter) skyscraper. The Main Building, which was completed in 1937, is located in the heart of campus. The largest carillon in Texas, with 56 bells, is located at the top of the Tower. The carillon is played every day.

During WWII, an air raid siren designed by the University’s head communications engineer, Jack Maguire, was installed on top of the Tower to warn Austin citizens of impending air raids. This siren was only tested and never utilized because there was never an air assault on the city. Four electronic warning sirens were installed in early 2007 to replace the defunct siren.

The massacre of 1966

On August 1, 1966, Charles Joseph Whitman, a university architectural engineering student, locked himself on the observation deck of the Main Building’s tower with a scoped Remington 700 deer rifle and many other weapons. Whitman murdered 14 people and injured 32 more after a 96-minute standoff (including 1 who died 35 years later of his wounds). Two police officers and a deputized manager from the co-op across the mall scaled the tower and fatally shot Whitman.

Suicide location

Following the Whitman tragedy, the viewing deck was briefly shuttered from August 1966 to June 1967, then reopened in 1974 after nine suicide leaps.

The UT system’s Board of Regents supported the suggestion of Student Association leaders and then-president Larry Faulkner to reopen the Tower’s observation deck to tourists on November 11, 1998. The observation deck reopened to the public in 1999, following the installation of security and safety measures.

Furthermore, due to the September 11th attacks, the observation deck was closed in 2002 and 2003 and reopened in 2004 with increased security.

Tower Girl

Tower Girl, a female peregrine falcon, sought to nest on top of the tower for the first time in 2018. The University of Texas Biodiversity Center installed a webcam to observe her, as a successful nesting effort would increase the species’ reported breeding range in North America.


The Tower is generally illuminated in white light in the evening, but it is lit in different color schemes for special occasions such as sporting successes and academic achievements. To commemorate more solemn occurrences, such as the death of a past university president, the Tower is dimmed with a faint grey hue throughout the night.

Carl J. Eckhardt Jr., the Physical Plant’s director in 1931, oversaw the building of the Main Building Tower. Eckhardt designed a lighting system to highlight academic accomplishments by utilizing the building’s dominating architecture. Beginning in 1937, orange lights were used to represent significant events at the institution; by 1947, standard criteria for employing the orange lights had been developed, and they have been revised subsequently. There are many various lighting options available nowadays, including a darkened tower to represent grave times. For national championships in NCAA athletic events, an orange tower with office windows lighted to create the numeral “1” is used.

The Tower windows are lighted up to create the year (e.g., a 12 for the Class of 2012) of the class being recognized during Gone To Texas and commencement celebrations.

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