Daily Plaza: The Fountain

When most of us are still alseep, Patrick Brent, Fountain Attendant, is at City Hall going through his daily routine clearing the debri from what he affectionately calls the “Pond”. He’s there Monday through Friday from 6am-2pm. In October, he’ll have been the attendant for 2 yrs.

“It’s nice,” he says, of the work. Though he’s not smiling in the picture he usually smiles a lot, and when he does his gold tooth is gleaming. You can tell he likes it. He takes pride in it, and cares for it. He’s got an ease and calm about him that immediately puts you at rest, much like the fountain itself. It’s like they were made for each other.

The fountain has a rich history itself. At one point in time it was seen as a wading pool. But calling it a “pool” changed when the days of someone suing over burning their mouths on coffee became a “thing.” In his 1983 Report to Dallas City Council, William “Holly” White recommended it be used as a pool, and a place to sail small electric boats, for ducks, and the like. And in 1984 it was. The fountain was actually used as a pool in its legendary event City Hall Beach Day. But these days the pool-pond-fountain, is filled with so many chemicals that wading into to it would cause your skin to boil (okay, not for real, but there are a lot of chemicals). In fact, the other day, Patrick added 50 lbs of muriatic acid to kill all the algae, which consists of wading around the fountain, hand-sifting the powder into the water.

At one time, the fountain was drained and had tables in chairs in it. It’s even served host to concerts, and this blogger heard that Van Halen played here once. Even if they didn’t, it sounds like a pretty great idea! Today, the fountain is just for looking. I recommend from 11:00-1:00pm, when the water feature is a’goin, or 12:30, which is when I’m usually out-to-eat with a small motley crue of City Hallers. We have good conversation, fly kites, enjoy watching the tourist, and every now and then watching the cat-and-mouse game that occurs when someone sticks their toe in the pool or gets too close for comfort causing the security guards run out and shoe them away. Sally Rodriguez, of Parks and Rec, said that every now and then a protester or an errant soul will wade out abashed and jump onto the red balls. I told Patrick about this, we chuckled about it, and then got into a discourse about whether or not the balls are “art.”

As the seasons change, Patrick has to deal with different obstacles from leaves, to heat, to cold, to algae. Most days he goes through his routine, circling each level and sweeping the rocks into a pile, snagging floating debri with his net, changing the filters, and a litany of other odd jobs to keep things in check. Sometimes he finds some change, and every now and then he’ll find a buck – a nice little perk of the job! He works the pool quietly and methodically, communing with his thoughts and his ear buds, which he revealed are mostly tuned to hip hop. I grimaced when he told me that…to think, there’s a little hip hop concert happening in the fountain every day. Nice!

And though the fountain is mesmerizing, and as daunting as City Hall itself, only one person, ONE, gets to fully interact with it on a day to day basis. For the rest of us it’s beauty can only be experienced from a far – you can look but never touch.

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3 Comments to “Daily Plaza: The Fountain”

  1. What would it take to get it back to a public swimming area again? I assume lifeguards would be a legal necessity, but is there a possibility? It could really reinvigorate the plaza.
    Wouldn’t want the homeless bathing in it though :/

    • We agree that getting the pool online would completely change the way the plaza is used. Wouldn’t that be great! In our quest to bring the plaza to life, the pool is at the top of our list. I know some people who use the people right now. On week days the guards will come out a yell at you if you dip a toe in, on weekends it’s a different story – just saying. Then they try to sell you a story about how homeless people pee and defecate in the pool, but I talk to the fountain attendant regularly and he takes a lot of pride in the cleanliness of the water. Besides have you ever been to a public pool? How many people pee in those things? Or a lake? I would be more concerned about those swimming environments. I think the first obstacle is a mental shift, then the second is getting over the excuse that we don’t have the money. I’ve swam in the pool a couple times myself and it was fantastic!

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