UT Austin Tower to undergo first major renovation since its construction

Once the tallest tower in Austin, it’s been looking down on students for 85 years.

"The Tower is obviously that iconic part of campus, and it’s that sort of beacon that we all look to when we come out of a building," said President Jay Hartzell.

President Hartzell said despite its age, the clock tower at the center of campus really hasn’t undergone renovations since its construction.

On Wednesday, the university’s Board of Regents announced plans to provide a $26 million lead investment that will go toward a major renovation of the building facade and surrounding grounds.

"From afar, if we light it up, it’s beautiful, but if you get up close you can realize it’s time," said President Hartzell. "It’s time to get it back to the position and stature and have it gleam the way that it should." 

Construction of the Tower was completed in 1937. It originally served as the central library for the university.

According to Jim Nicar of The UT History Corner, it wasn’t just the inside that served as a symbol of education. On the outside of the building, symbolic images were carved into the Tower’s limestone blocks. On the north side, there are gold letters and hieroglyphics from languages that led to the development of the English language, lettering that used to be more pronounced.

"It’s hard to tell now because it really needs to be renovated," said Nicar.

Restoring the letters will be one focus of the new renovations along with modernizing the observation deck.

"It’s gotten to a point that it's really just a rusty tower, and it needs some care and attention," said Nicar. "It’s going to look wonderful again; I can’t wait for all that."

President Hartzell said the renovations are part of a recent, overall push to make campus a central place that the entire community is drawn to.

He mentioned hosting more live music events and putting more food trucks on campus. 

"All of this is part of this ‘campus vibrancy’ idea," said President Hartzell. "[The Tower renovation] is one of many campus projects to use the campus as a catalyst to bring us back together, and I think we feel that sense of need to do that more acutely now after COVID than we did before."

On Nov. 12, a special announcement will be made about the Tower’s restoration at the Longhorns home football game.