Once the "best spot for spooning on the Forty Acres," Beck's Lake was located on the West Mall of the University of Texas between the Old Main Building and the Drag. Beck's Lake was created by its namesake, H.B. Beck, the superintendent of the University grounds between 1899 and 1905. The pond, which was fed by a subterranean spring, was dubbed "Beck's Lake" by the biology students who drew water samples from it for their experiments. Progress, however, replaced this quiet retreat with the Architecture Building in the 1930s.
Three thousand gallons of water every minute are pumped through the Littlefield Fountain located on the South Mall of the University of Texas grounds. The fountain's majestic bronze figures were sculpted by Italian artist Pompeo Coppini. Unveiled in 1933, the fountain was built with money from a $250,000 trust established by Major George W. Littlefield to commemorate war heroes. The lily pads in the foreground are examples of the rare Victoria lily which can support 75 to 100 pounds of weight and which took the University several years to acquire.
The English "Curfew" Ivy, which once climbed the walls of Old Main, can be traced back to England to the gravesite of Thomas Gray. In about 1879, the mother of Dr. Leslie Waggener, a former University president, visited Stokes Poges, England. The site where Thomas Gray wrote his poem, "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," later served as his burial plot. Mrs. Waggener cut some small pieces of the ivy that was growing on this grave and brought them back with her. In 1884, Dr. Waggener planted the ivy around the Old Main. In 1933, before the building was to be demolished, Dean T.U. Taylor took some of the ivy and transplanted it to the Engineering Building. It is also believed that Dean Taylor sent some of the ivy cuttings to the University of Kansas City to be planted around their Administration Building.
Austin State Hospital
In the 1898 annual report the Board of Managers for the State Hospital reported, "the expenses have been kept within the appropriations, without depriving the patients of the comfort provided in former years…." They created 600 yards of new driveway, graded the areas north of the administration building for better drainage and turned those areas into new lawns. In addition, they completed a "chain of lakes" designed by the gardener which extended the length of the grounds in the front of the Administration Building and dormitories.
The State Hospital was situated in what was considered to be one of the prettiest parks in Austin in the early 1900s. The grounds were maintained by both the hospital staff and the patients, providing a therapeutic outlet for the patients. Physicians strongly believed in the "positive influence a pleasant setting would have on a disturbed mind."
"Winding driveways and walks lead from two large fountains to a very artistic lake. The upper portion of it is a lily pond, and its rustic bridges, odd shrubbery and smooth patches of lawn enclosed by tall grasses and vine covered trees all give it the effect of a Japanese garden. The lower section of the lake grows gradually broader and deeper. It lies like a huge mirror, in the southern extremity of the park; and its tiny island and smooth grassy banks fringed with willows and shrubs make it a most inviting spot. In early spring the gentle slopes about it are sprinkled with bluebonnets, rain lilies and other Texas wildflowers, which rival in beauty the formal flowerbeds near the buildings.
On the north, or in the rear, stretch rich farming lands that were once illimitable prairies. The westward thera[sic] is a chain of hills which makes a beautiful purplish background for the intervening fields in various shades of green and gold. These hills curve with the Colorado River, forming one bank until reaching the city of Austin, which lies to the east and south of the Asylum. In its infancy the institution was two and one half miles from the town, but now its neighboring vicinity is thickly populated…"
Dr. John Preston, Superintendent of the State Asylum, 1914