Lili Zheng

Fort Worth's Iconic Pioneer Tower Illuminated Again

It's been decades since light has shone from inside Pioneer Tower at the Will Rogers Memorial Center, but that changed on Wednesday night.

The tower, which stands at 208 feet tall, was built in 1936. Lights were switched back on Wednesday night before a crowd of hundreds after being under renovation and construction for about a year.

District 7 councilman Dennis Shingleton described the tower as a 'beacon' in Fort Worth's Cultural District and a 'mainstay for the west side'.

"Before that tower was there, there were very few houses beyond that west side. It was mostly military installations," Councilman Shingleton said.

The renovation process included crews removing grates from all sides in order for it to be relit from within. The grates were installed sometime in the late 1970's or early 1980's, city officials said.

"A lot of the work that was done here was to go back and recapture that infrastructure, build it to today's standards," explained Richard Zavala, director of public events. "There was a lot of internal stuff that was done that wouldn't have met the code and engineering and construction."

Lili Zheng, NBC 5 News
Pioneer Tower, Fort Worth, November 2019.

Zavala says the $4.7 million project also includes cleaning, repointing, and sealing the 1936 brick facades. There was also a need to replace a limestone band, plus roughly 6,000 glass blocks on the side of the tower.

"Those glass blocks came from New Zealand, so they were shipped from across the world to be able to fit. There’s only one place that makes them in that kind of magnitude," Zavala said.

New LED lights can also be changed to celebrate local milestones and events, such as the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.

"25, 50, 75 years from now – we’ve got to continue to reinvest in the infrastructure, otherwise you're going to lose it," Zavala said. "So here's our way of saying, this is important. Keep it up for the future and you'll see the benefits."

Lili Zheng, NBC 5 News
Pioneer Tower, Fort Worth, November 2019.
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