Littlefield Fountain functions under rules, regulations

Gracie Awalt

Since March 1933, an estimated 64,000 gallons of city water have been running continuously through the Littlefield Fountain in front of the UT Tower. 

The Littlefield Fountain has several rules and regulations that guide its maintenance and function. Charlie Cromartie, south campus maintenance supervisor for Facilities Services, said the fountain is continuously circulating water to prevent algae growth. 

“When the water is not recirculating, it takes on outside dust and dirt and whatever blows in there, and that enhances the algae growth,” Cromartie said. “We circulate it and keep it moving because it keeps (the water) in a cleaner state than what it would be just sitting there stagnant.” 

Cromartie said the fountain sprays water upward using the “spray nozzle system” only on special campus occasions, such as commencement and the Gone to Texas celebration. He said the water is also turned on by request when the campus is filmed by a news outlet. 

The fountain is cleaned each spring and manual labor is used to remove algae inside the pool of the fountain, Cromartie said. 

“We use brushes and brooms,” Cromartie said. “What we try to do is scrub down the inner surface to remove all the algae growth.” 

Cromartie said the brass statue itself, like all other campus statues, is cleaned by an outside organization of specialists because the metals require certain cleaning methods. He said in the event of a graffiti incident, such as the one in March when the fountain was found marked with red spray paint, Facilities Services consults with the campus architect to determine the best removal method to avoid surface deterioration. 

Cromartie said a request was made by a student organization last semester to dedicate the Littlefield Fountain as a graduation celebration place. He said after the request was approved, facilities workers used nets that would usually be used to clean swimming pools to remove bottle corks and confetti. 

“We always discourage any kind of wading in the water because on certain occasions maybe someone threw a glass bottle in there and you could slip and fall and cut yourself,” Cromartie said. “We can’t verify that the water is 100 percent safe if there is any consumption of water.”

Jim Nicar, a former UT historian and curator of the UT History Corner blog, said soon after the Littlefield Fountain was opened in 1933, the fountain contained cattails, lily pads and other varieties of flowering water plants until at least the 1950s. 

“Not too long ago, I tweeted to the UT Facilities office as to whether the plants might ever return,” Nicar said in an email. “They kindly replied that, at present, there aren’t any funds to purchase and maintain aquatic plants for the fountain. In other words, it’s not in the budget.”

Ashley Akin, finance and business honors junior, said she enjoys when the fountain looks clean and would consider jumping in the fountain when she graduates. 

“This whole area is the best part of UT,” Akin said “I think every student considers jumping in the fountain. It’s a very classic photo.”