Why the Williams Tower Beacon Was Off Last Fall

Williams Tower, 2800 Post Oak Blvd., Galleria Area, Houston, 77056

Update (2/9): The entire beacon fixture has been replaced. See this story for details.

The rotating spotlight on top of the 64-story Williams Tower in the Galleria area has been back on for a few weeks, following an autumnal hiatus. According to a representative of the tower’s property management office, the beam stayed dark during difficulties finding the correct kind of bulb for the fixture. A reader sent a report this week from a bedroom window overlooking the Galleria area:


“The top of the building has been enclosed in scaffolding for several months, and the light has been dark.  It seems much brighter this time, and perhaps aimed a bit lower.”

Various tower-gazers noted the beacon getting back to work as early as Christmas.

Photo: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

Twinkle, Twinkle, Giant Bulb

17 Comment

  • You would think if the bulb is that special and hard to find, that someone in charge would make sure there is a spare kept somewhere handy.

  • Glad to see the beacon back in operation. Williams tower has more style and swagger than anything built in the neighborhood since. The BBVA, BHP, and Amegy Bank building are pretty craptastic in comparison.

  • I STILL refer to it as the Transco Tower.

  • Schwaghag, you and 99% of Houstonians (including myself). We know it has been renamed, but a landmark is a landmark is a landmark, and the name sticks no matter how much someone pays to rebrand something ….

  • Can’t find the right bulb any more?

    Thanks, Obama!

  • The Transco tower is the barometer for Classy.

  • I’ve wondered why this building has maintained it’s old name socially but other buildings in town haven’t. Many residents still refer to the building as Transco Tower instead of Williams Tower. The name change was in 1999. Why don’t folks in Houston call the JPMorgan Chase Tower the Texas Commerce Tower. The Bank of America Building is formally known as the RepublicBank Center, the NCNB Center, and the NationsBank Center. Enterprise Plaza used to be called the Southwest Bank of Texas Building. Gulf Tower became Chevron Tower and is now the Fulbright Tower. I guess because the building is the tallest in Houston and the most recognizable.

  • @Walker; not quite true. The Transco tower is the tallest “freestanding” skyscraper in Houston, but the tallest is the Texas Commerce Bank (er, I mean JP Morgan Chase) building at 75 stories. Transco comes in third with 64 stories.

  • I’ve been here since 2010, and this is actually the first time I’ve heard it called Transco Tower.

  • The Williams Tower has the best distinction as being the TALLEST building the WORLD that is located outside of the primary business district of the city.

  • I worked in the building for many years, and it was my favorite location and workplace for sure. I was in the building when 9/11 happened, and there was concern that the building would be a target. What was eerie in the couple of days following was the lack of air traffic. I never really noticed how much air traffic there was until there was none. Because the views on all sides of the building are unobstructed, it affords magnificent views, even occasionally above the clouds. It’s really a wonderful and well-run property. I miss going there every day.

  • @Walker…I think you nailed it when you said it’s the most recognizable. Transco ( Williams) Tower sits alone as a really tall structure, whereas downtown buildings are surrounded by others and don’t have the sight lines that the Post Oak location affords. You can see it from some very distant and different locations throughout the metro area. It’s also the one building that most of my out of town visitors always ask “what’s that?”. If I’m not mistaken, it was also the last very tall building built in Houston ( 1983) and nothing taller has been built since.

  • GMan, that was true when it was built, but hasn’t been true for awhile now…

    I think I’ve read that the name Transco played a rule in Philip Johnson’s choice of Art Deco style for the architecture. Although perhaps it was only an unconscious influence.

    If they have trouble finding a replacement bulb now, I wonder what will happen in another 5 years or so when it needs to be replaced again? Might have to do some reconfiguration up there at some point. Meanwhile I’m always amazed that whenever I need a new bulb for one of my 1930’s film projectors, I can go to Light Bulbs Unlimited and they pull it right off the shelf for me. Such a weird industry.

  • An observant friend pointed this out to me. Not just the new, brighter light. But also the fact that the rotation of the light has reversed. You can find videos of the light on YouTube of it spinning counter-clockwise, and now it spins clockwise.

  • Transco vs Williams Tower makes for a good test to find out (or guess) how long ago it was that someone moved to Houston. For more recent arrivals, the mention of Transco Tower will likely draw a puzzled look, rather than ringing a bell. Long-time residents, by contrast, will have memories to associate with the former name, perhaps recall visits not only to the fabulous man-made waterfall, but also to the corporate parkland and lakescape across the street that is now mostly built up and off-limits to the general public.


    The “Chase Tower” (much better moniker, sorry JPM) is actually branded “600 Travis” at street/plaza level. See sign listing major corporate tenants (not including the bank). Which makes sense from a practical perspective. Like naming new residential complexes by the street number in their address.

  • Yup. Transco Tower, Texas Commerce Bank Tower, and the big green one is still Allied Bank to me. Don’t even ask about The Summit. And get off my lawn, you whippersnappers.

  • Is it really pointed lower? Every time I look at it I think it seems like it’s pointed much higher. Which is what led me to google it…