The tower consists of six one-room brick stories with internal metal stairs. There is a basement in which practice fires could be built. Firefighters could practice aerial ladder work, flood the upper stories, scale the walls and conduct rescue drills through the windows. The tower was burnt regularly for 43 years until 1974 when it was abandoned in favor of a new facility in a location away from the downtown area.
For four years following its abandonment the tower, undisturbed by regular human activity, stood with it's paneless windows wide open and became a six story pigeon coop. It's condition, to say nothing of it's appearance, deteriorated.
In 1978 the wife of the tower's builder led a camping under the aegis of the Austin Chapter, National Association of Women in Construction, to restore the structure. The restoration included the installation of a carillon and the tower assumed a new function. It went from blazes to birds to Back within the decade. The carillon is capable of a variety of melodies and can be programmed to chime the hour or half hour.
On August 23, 1978 the old fire practice tower officially became the James Buford Tower and Kitchens Memorial Chimes. Captain James L. Buford was an Austin firefighter who was killed during a heroic rescue attempt and Rex D. Kitchens was the tower's builder."
CREDIT: - Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 06, Number 02, Summer 1988, J. P. Bryan, editor, Journal/Magazine/Newsletter, 1988; digital images, (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45434 : accessed July 29, 2011), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation, Austin, Texas.
|From Arguendo & Dixi's Daily Austin Photo|