From Water and Power Associates:
Table of contents
The Three Fathers of the Los Angeles Aqueduct
From the LADWP Historic Archive
Three years had
not yet passed since the city of Los Angeles had taken over the management of
its own water system, when the City Council was astounded, on the morning of
July 21, 1905, by Attorney Oscar Lawler’s appearance before them with the
request that they allow the citizens of Los Angeles to vote on a charter
amendment that would permit the city to again lease its water system to private
parties. Mr. Lawler stated that he represented clients with ample means to
“properly” run the system, which he stated was becoming too difficult for the
city to handle.
But the astonishment of the members of the Council was nothing compared to that of the people of Los Angeles a week later when, upon opening their newspapers on Saturday morning, July 29, 1905, they read the greatest news that had ever been transmitted to them regarding the welfare of the city.
The front page of Part II of the Los Angeles Times that morning was given over to the first intimation ever made to the people of the city about the projected aqueduct to bring Owens River to Los Angeles.
It was a page full of strange words, strange news and a map of a country little known to most of the townspeople.
At the center of the top of the front page of the Times was a three-column box with this most interesting news:
The times announces this morning the most important movement for the development of Los Angeles in all the city’s history – the closing of preliminary negotiations securing 30,000 inches of water, or about 10 times our present total supply – enough for a city of 2,000,000 people. In brief, the project is to bring the water to Los Angeles from Owens River in Inyo County, a distance of 240 miles, at a cost of about $23,000,000.
Options on the water-bearing lands have been closed by the city’s representatives, and a series of bond issues will be asked of the voters. This new water supply, immense and unfailing, will make Los Angeles forge ahead by leaps and bounds, and remove every spectra of drought or doubt.
With such an enormous stream of the purest mountain water pouring in here, Los Angeles will have one of the best supplies in the land; she will have water to sell to the San Fernando Valley and even to San Diego; she will have assured her future for a century. There is no doubt that the bonds will be forthcoming.
In a double-column box at the top of the left-hand side of the paper was an exclusive dispatch from Independence, California, dated July 28, 1905, giving this story to the people:
Agents representing Los Angeles City have secured options on about 40 miles of frontage along Owens River, north of Owens Lake. Fred Eaton, ex-mayor of Los Angeles, and the superintendent of the Los Angeles Water Works were in the Valley in an automobile the early part of this week. Two days ago they closed the last outstanding options. The price paid for many of the ranches is three or four times what the owners ever expected to sell them for. Everybody in the Valley has money and everyone is happy.
Three months ago Eaton bought the holdings of the Rickey Cattle Company, comprising about 50,000 acres of water-bearing land. It was then thought that Eaton was going into the stock-raising business here, but it has since been learned that he was securing options for Los Angeles City. Eaton has made every option solid and secured all the land the city wanted. The deal is riveted.
On the front page, too, was a portrait of William Mulholland, then superintendent of the City Water Works, as well as a group picture of the Board of Water Commissioners: President J. J. Fay, J. M. Elliott, M. H. Sherman, William Mead and Fred L. Baker. Across the right side top of the page was a two-column map of the Owens Valley and the route the aqueduct would probably follow to the city. A two-column headline said:
Titanic Project to Give City a River —- 30,000 inches of Water to be Brought to Los Angeles —- Option Secured on 40 Miles of River Frontage in Inyo County — Magnificent Stream to be Conveyed Down to the Southland in Conduit 240 Miles Long — Stupendous Deal Closed.
Then followed a story of a trip made into the Owens Valley by Mayor McAleer, Superintendent Mulholland, City Attorney Mathews and Commissioners Fay and Elliott, by stage from Mojave to Independence by a short time before.
There Mr. Elliott had collapsed and Mr. Fay had to take him over the narrow-gauge Reno and Carson City Railroad into Nevada and from thence to San Francisco, where he lay in the hospital for three weeks before recovering.
The article went on to say that 30,000 inches of water meant more to Los Angeles than all the gold hidden away in the California Mountains. Among other interesting remarks, their conjectures as to the original course of the Owens River stated:
The engineers now all agree on what he (Fred Eaton) first surmised: that the water of the Owens River centuries ago flowed down through the arid valley from what is now Owens Lake, passing near the present site of the Mojave, and finally entering into what is now the Los Angeles River in the San Fernando Valley. But a series of mighty upheavals dislocated the ribs of the lesser Sierra, threw mountains across the path of the stream, and for 10 centuries at least the river has emptied into Owens Lake.
An interview with Mr. Mulholland was given in full, and quotes him as saying:
“Fred Eaton did it. He has been working on it for 13 years. He is the greatest natural engineer the West has ever known. He has made it possible for us to accomplish the greatest scheme of water development ever attempted in this country.
Thirteen years ago Fred Eaton told me that Los Angeles would one day obtain its water from Owens Valley. I laughed at him. The Los Angeles River was then running 40,000,000 gallons of water daily, and we had less than 50,000 population. ‘We have enough water here in the river to support the city for the next 50 years,’ I told him. ‘You are wrong. You have not lived here as long as I,’ said he, ‘and seen the dry years – watch and see.’
Four years ago I began to discover that Fred was right. Our populace climbed to the top, and the bottom seemed to drop out of the river. Then – I turned my attention to the Owens Lake country.”
(What Mulholland did not say was that it was he who made it possible for Eaton to finance his plan; that he has made five trips on foot along the lines of the proposed canal; that he has five times climbed the dangerous spurs of the Owens River mountains and has personally inspected every piece of land purchased by the city.)
Two full columns were devoted to “The Daring of the Financing.” The articles were continued on page 7, where four portraits were reproduced, portraits of four men largely responsible for the launching of the project: Mayor McAleer, City Attorney Mathews and the tow engineers, Fred Eaton and J. B. Lippincott.
A full column was given to Lippincott’s interest and aid; predictions were made of the power to be developed, and the article declared: “Owens River will be to Los Angeles what Niagara is to Buffalo.”
So, on July 29, 1905, with all the showmanship of front-page journalism, the Los Angeles Times^ told the people the first story of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.**
The Story of the Los Angeles Aqueduct
From the website of Water and Power Associates
The Owens River is located in southeastern California and is approximately 183 miles long. It drains into and through the Owens Valley, an arid basin between the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada and the western faces of the Inyo and White Mountains. The river terminates at Owens Lake, but its flow has been greatly diminished by diversion into the Los Angeles Aqueduct since 1913.
In 1904, Fred Eaton and J. B. Lippincott traveled to Yosemite Valley on a family camping trip. They crossed the Sierra at Tioga Pass and headed south to Bishop for supplies, and eventually back to Los Angeles through the Owens Valley. During that trip Eaton began making plans that would bring water to a growing city and launch a long conflict.
Upon his return to Los Angeles, Eaton began to act quickly. Aware that Mulholland was searching for a new source of supply for Los Angeles, Eaton persuaded Mulholland to return to the valley with him. During that trip he convinced Mulholland that the Owens River could provide Los Angeles with a reliable source of water.
Eaton visited the Owens Valley again in 1905 and began to purchase land for the City of Los Angeles. He gave the impression that he was working for the US Reclamation Service on a public irrigation project, angering local residents when they discovered he was buying land and water rights for Los Angeles.
In March of 1905, Mulholland recommended to the Board of Water Commissioners that the Owens Valley was the only viable source of supplemental water for the City’s fast growing population. The following year the City submitted an application for rights-of-way across federal lands for the purpose of constructing an aqueduct. The application was approved and in 1907 Los Angeles voters approved a $23 million bond issue for the construction of the Los Angeles Owens Valley Aqueduct. Work began on the aqueduct in September and the City began to purchase private property and water rights in the southern pert of Owens Valley.
Moses Sherman served on the water board while he also participated in plans to develop the San Fernando Valley, which became the outlet point for the aqueduct. Sherman’s double role has been the source of conspiracy theories with regard to the aqueduct.
After securing the land and water rights, the Board of Water Commissioners needed to obtain the money from Los Angeles residents, and legal rights from the Federal Government, to construct the aqueduct. A bond measure to pay for the construction passed in Los Angeles by a 10 to 1 margin. After much debate in the House of Representatives, President Theodore Roosevelt decided that Los Angeles should have the rights to the Owens River water.
Construction on the Los Angeles Aqueduct began in 1907. Workers from all over the world came to work at high-paying jobs that would last until 1913.
Click HERE to see more on the Construction of the LA Aqueduct.
|Click HERE to see more on the Opening of the LA Aqueduct.|
Once Los Angeles had a reliable water supply it began to grow dramatically. Some argue that the city would not be what it is today without the LA Aqueduct.
| Aftermath |
Owens Valley residents began to fight the City’s water export. Confrontations escalated to several dynamitings of the Aqueduct. Much has been written about the water conflict between Owens Valley and the City of Los Angeles and also of the environmental impacts resulting from the LA Aqueduct’s construction. The issues are complex and have different points of view. Water and Power Associates recommends several books (as listed at the bottom of the page) to gain a better understanding of all the complex issues surrounding the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
Owens Valley and the City of Los Angeles – A Complex Relationship
“…the businesses and the homes were leased or rented back to the same people (residents of Owens Valley) to pursue their same activity. Most of them did and very successfully. Because, by that time, the impact of the city’s improvements in the Owens Valley, and I don’t mean the aqueduct, I mean in connection with the construction of the aqueduct, the city built a broad-gauge railroad from Mojave to Long Pine to connect with the narrow gauge railroad. So for the first time the Owens Valley had rail service to ship any products it had, including ranch products out of the city to Los Angeles. The City used its influence with the State of California to have the highway paved from Mojave to the Owens Valley, and that was done. So access to the Owens Valley because of the City’s work, in its own behalf obviously, but still it was there and available to anybody that wanted to use it, both the railroad and the highway. The city built power plants in connection with the construction of the aqueduct, and those plants for a long time provided power to the Owens Valley, which didn’t have it before the city came in there with the aqueduct construction.
So there were a lot of benefits that occurred that, in my readings and listening to too many people that have no idea that those things happened or don’t wish to… admit that those things happened.”
| Robert V. Phillips, Chief Engineer and General Manager of DWP, 1972-75 (Both Mr. Phillips and his father knew and worked with Mulholland and Van Norman). |
Construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct
From the website of Water and Power Associates
The Los Angeles Aqueduct aqueduct was designed and built by the city’s water department, at the time named the Bureau of Los Angeles Aqueduct, under the supervision of the department’s Chief Engineer William Mulholland.
Built between 1908 and 1913 at a cost of $23 million, the LA Aqueduct tapped into the waters of the Owens River and delivered water 233-miles south to Los Angeles.
When completed in 1913, the Los Angeles Aqueduct was considered to be a great engineering accomplishment only second to the Panama Canal. A century later, it continues to be a marvel in modern engineering.The LA Aqueduct brought water from the Owens Valley hundreds of miles away to a growing area in need of additional resources to sustain its people and their endeavors, helping spur an economy that today rivals that of many nations. A century later, this gravity-fed system continues to be a major source of water for Los Angeles — on an average year supplying 29% of the water needs for four million people.
In March of 1905, William Mulholland recommended to the Board of Water Commissioners that the Owens Valley was the only viable source of supplemental water for the City’s fast growing population. The following year the City submitted an application for rights-of-way across federal lands for the purpose of constructing an aqueduct. The application was approved and in 1907 Los Angeles voters approved a $23 million bond issue for the construction of the Los Angeles Owens Valley Aqueduct. Work began on the aqueduct in September and the City began to purchase private property and water rights in the southern part of Owens Valley.^^*
Seeking to diminish as much criticism as possible prior to the $24 million bond election, the Los Angeles Water Commissioners appointed an Aqueduct Advisory Board, comprised of three nationally known civil engineers: John R. Freeman, James D. Schuyler and Frederick P. Stearns. They made an independent evaluation of the proposed aqueduct. The board reviewed the project’s design feasibility, constructability, pricing and logistic requirements. The Board found the aqueduct “admirable in conception and outline” in their report released during the fall of 1906. Few engineers dared to criticize the project after the panel’s review was released, due in large part to the clout and credibility of John R. Freeman, one of the principal consultants for New York’s New Croton Aqueduct.^
Moses Sherman served on the water board while he also participated in plans to develop the San Fernando Valley, which became the outlet point for the aqueduct. Sherman’s double role has been the source of conspiracy theories with regard to the aqueduct.*
The People Behind the Construction of the LA Aqueduct
| (1911)**- Organizational Chart for the Construction of the |
The Board of Public Works had charge of the expenditure of all bond moneys derived from the sale of Aqueduct and Power bonds.
William Mulholland was appointed the Chief Engineer.
J.B. Lippincott was appointed Assistant Chief Engineer.
| H. A. Van Norman was in charge of the construction work done with dredges and the building of the unlined canal on the Owens Valley |
O.W. Peterson was in charge of the construction of the open lined
canal from the north end of the Alabama Hills to the Haiwee
Phil Wintz had charge of the building of the South Haiwee Dam.
C. H. Richards was in charge of the construction of the covered
conduits and tunnels in the Rose Valley and Little Lake divisions.
F. J. Mills was Division Engineer of the Grapevine division, consisting of tunnels and pressure pipes.
Louis Mesmer built the Freeman Division.
A. C. Hansen completely constructed the Jawbone division and a
large portion of the Mojave division.
John Gray had charge of the greater portion of the construction of
the Elizabeth Tunnel and the power tunnels in the San Francisquito
W. C. Aston was in charge of the south portal of the Elizabeth tunnels and steel pipe.
E. F.Scattergood was Electrical Engineer in charge of construction of the power plants.
Roderick MacKay had general supervision of the operation of the
cement mill and of the selection and advisory of the heavy
E. W. Bannister was Office Engineer in general charge of the drafting room and of the office of records.
The most difficult part of the construction of the LA Aqueduct was tunneling. There were 142 tunnels, totaling forty-three miles in length, that had to be dug during the five years of the aqueduct’s construction. The Elizabeth Tunnel was the longest with a length of over five miles.*
In the first 11 months of work, 22 miles of tunnel were driven. The Elizabeth Tunnel set the world record for hard rock tunnel driving: 604 feet in one month. The Board of Engineers had estimated it would take five years to finish the five-mile tunnel. The men beat their deadline by 20 months.*
Click HERE to see more in Tunnel Construction on the LA Aqueduct
“It crawls like a caterpillar.” And caterpillar is its name to the present day. The descriptive remark is attributed to William Mulholland while watching the first formal demonstration of the new type of tractor just purchased for hauling materials across the desert during the building of the aqueduct.*^
The Holt caterpillar traction engines looked so promising that 28 of them were purchased by the City for transporting heavy loads.*#*
It was hoped that the Caterpillar tractor would be a mechanical substitute for the mule – a departure from traditional construction methods that could lower costs and speed the progress of the great water way to Los Angeles. However, things didn’t quite work out that way.*^
The Mojave Desert proved too much of a challenge for the caterpillar traction engines. They were plagued with frequent breakdowns and their use was soon abandoned in favor of mule teams. Some of the Holt caterpillars were used as forms when the concrete lining of the aqueduct was poured.*#*
City crews reverted back to using mules after maintenance and repair of the caterpillar tractor proved too costly.
Early postcard depicting “Whistling Dick”, a 76 year old muleskinner who worked on the aqueduct; postcard was loaned for copy purposes by Department of Water and Power retiree Ed Fleming of Mojave (June 1971). Fleming stated that the picture shows Dick Wright mounted on the left wheel mule holding the jerk line, and his two swampers are atop the load of pipe.
“Whistling Dick” had the makings of both myth and legend, a type of rugged individual who creates an aura of romance in stories of the Old West.
Back in 1912, 74-year-old Whistling Dick drove a team of 52 balky mules as he labored with hard working crews building one of the toughest sections of the Los Angeles Owens River Aqueduct in the Mojave Desert – the spectacular jawbone Siphon, a giant roller coaster of a pipeline.
What is considered to be Whistling Dick’s grave is in a small windswept cemetery about one mile southwest of Jawbone Canyon Road, located between the routes of the original and the Second Los Angeles Owens River Aqueducts.His 52-mule team wagons transported mammoth 30-ton sections of steel pipe along sun baked desert trails to the job sites. Although 20-mule teams were common, the extremely heavy aqueduct sections required the pulling power of the 52-mule teams.*^
Cement bagged at the Monolith Mill was shipped by train to the nearest railroad siding, then loaded onto wagons and transported by mule team to aqueduct construction sites.*
Concrete was the most prevalent construction material for the Aqueduct, although in some cases the engineers might have preferred steel pipe. The use of steel pipe was limited by its tremendous cost, a result of having to transport it to California from its place of manufacture in Pennsylvania.*^
Monolith began as a camp for workers at a cement plant supplying the Owens Valley aqueduct. William Mulholland bestowed the name due to a huge limestone deposit.The Aqueduct post office opened in 1908, and changed its name to Monolith in 1910.*^*
Cuddleback Ranch, five miles east of Tehachapi, was on the main line of the Southern Pacific. There the city found the materials for making 1000 barrels of Portland cement a day. They purchased 4,300 acres of land covering limestone quarries, clay deposits, and deposits of tufa also used for making concrete. In addition to the cement produced at the Monolith Mill built at Cuddleback Ranch, the City also used 200,000 barrels of cement bought from other sources.*^
Whitney Canyon construction started in 1909. The section of the aqueduct through Whitney and Elsmere Canyons is noteworthy for its use of concrete in the siphon rather than the more usual riveted steel construction.
From the Sixth Annual Report of the Bureau of the Los Angeles Aqueduct (July 1911):The Whitney Siphon is a reinforced concrete pipe 10 feet in diameter, with an 8-in shell on the top and sides, and rests on a broad concrete base. The pipe was cast in position. The reinforcing steel consists of half-inch circular iron rods so spaced as to give a factor of safety of four on the steel. It is probable, however, that the concrete alone has sufficient strength to resist the bursting pressure, as the mixture was made very rich to obtain both water tightness and strength. Two expansion joints were put in this pipe. They are of the “Z” type and coated with asphalt paint. The only apparent leakage that has occurred at any place in the pipe is at one of these joints. In the Elsmere Siphon, which was built subsequently, no expansion joints were used. As far as known, in diameter these are the largest reinforced concrete pipes in the United States, but larger ones have been built in Spain.
Power from Cottonwood’s first generator and a second 900-kilowatt unit placed into service October 13, 1909, first traveled over temporary transmission lines to power the Aqueduct dredging operations and later to power equipment at the Monolith cement plant near Mojave which produced millions of tons of cement for miles of the Aqueduct’s concrete-lined conduit and canal sections.*^
Click HERE to see more in Electricity on the Aqueduct
The electric-powered dredge was used to work on the 21-mile stretch of unlined Aqueduct, from the Intake across from Aberdeen to the Alabama Gates, north of Lone Pine.^*^
Two hydroelectric plants, Division Creek and Cottonwood, were built to provide electric power for construction work along the aqueduct from the intake to Mojave. Something like this had never been done before in one project. The power was used in many facets of the construction, non more important than electric dredges and the cement mills in Monolith.*^
The pipe was manufactured on the East Coast in 36-foot-long sections, each weighing more than 25 tons. The sections were transported by train to Cinco. From there, they were loaded onto huge wagons and carted the final four miles by teams of 52 mules.*^The town of Cinco was founded as a work camp in the early 1900s for workers on the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
Approximately 191,785 rivets, varying in diameter from 5/8″ to 1-1/4″, were usd in construction–each rivet weighs 5 pounds.*^
Each 36-ton section of steel pipe was hauled 4 miles from Cinco to Jawbone Canyon by a team of 52 mules.*^
Most of the 15,000 tons of siphon steel needed for the aqueduct was transported by 52-animal teams driven by three freighters and two swampers.*#*
The construction of 12 miles of steel siphon in the Aqueduct provided some of the greatest challenges. In a canyon 120 miles north of Los Angeles, the aqueduct’s engineers designed their most imposing work, an 8,095 foot steel pressure siphon across desolate Jawbone Canyon.*^
The spectacular Jawbone Siphon in the Mojave Desert, a giant roller coaster of a pipeline, was one of the toughest sections to build. Construction started in January 1912 and was completed in March 1913.
The Jawbone Division of the LA Aqueduct begins at Red Rock Summit at an elevation of 3,320.00 feet and extends to the Pinto Hills at an elevation of 3,171.00 feet. The length is 119,795 feet, of which 60,657 feet is canal, 43,658 feet is in tunnel and 15,480 feet consists of flumes and siphons. The total fall consumed is 148.96 feet.*^
The Jawbone Sag Pipe was designed to handle 368 pounds per square inch of pressure at the bottom of the 1,000-foot deep canyon.*^
View showing one of the “sag pipes” of the Los Angeles Aqueduct in Jawbone Canyon. The aqueduct is based on gravity flow that does not require pumping or siphoning. Instead, water is conveyed via pressure developed in the down slope to force the water through the up slope. Jawbone Canyon is located just west of Highway 14, south of Randsburg Red Rock Road in Kern County.This section of the aqueduct, built in 1913, was designed by William Mulholland.
| Historical Notes |
The longest siphon on the aqueduct is the pipe crossing Antelope
Valley. It is 21,767 feet in length, and up to heads of 80 feet is built of concrete, the remaining 14,497 feet being steel pipe. The concrete
and steel pipes are both 10 feet in diameter. The maximum head on
this siphon is 200 feet, and the weight of the steel is 3,511 tons.^^
In February, 1914, the rainfall in the Mojave Desert region exceeded by nearly fifty per cent in three days the average annual precipitation. Where the steel siphon crosses Antelope Valley at the point of the greatest depression, an arroyo or run-off was indicated that fifteen feet was the extreme width of the flood stream, and the pipe was carried over the wash on concrete piers set just outside the high water lines. The February rain, however, was of the sort known as a cloud-burst, and the flood widened the wash to fifty feet, carried away the concrete piers, and the pipe sagged and broke at a circular seam. The steel pipe collapsed like an empty fire hose for nearly two miles of its length. In some places the top of the pipe was forced in by atmospheric pressure to within a few inches of the bottom. Many engineers pronounced the collapsed pipe a total loss, and advised that it be taken apart, the plates re-rolled and the siphon rebuilt.^^
The damage to the Antelope Siphon was repaired by the simple expedient of turning the water on after the break was mended, relying on the pressure to restore the pipe to circular form. The hydraulic pressure, under gradually increasing head, restored the pipe to its original shape without breaking any of the joints or shearing the rivets, and a month after the collapse the siphon was as good as new. The total cost of repairing the siphon was only $3,000. It would have cost about $250,000 to take it apart and rebuild it.^^
On February 13, 1913, water was officially released into the aqueduct to flow south toward Los Angeles.*#*
The Aqueduct is Officially Dedicated
Over 30,000 Los Angeles residents came to the San Fernando Valley to see the opening ceremony of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, where the first water from the Owens Valley completed its journey to Los Angeles. William Mulholland presided over the ceremony and called out for the water gate to be opened with five of the most famous words in Los Angeles history: ”There it is, take it”.
Construction of the LA Aqueduct Video
|Click HERE to see a short (5 min.) video titled: ‘The Great Los Angeles Aqueduct’|
L.A. Aqueduct Opening Ceremony
November 5, 1913
From the website of Water and Power Associates
All morning long they came – out to where the Newhall hills rise above the northeastern edge of the San Fernando Valley. On foot, on special Southern Pacific trains ($1 roundtrip from the Los Angeles terminal), in automobiles, wagons and buggies – on horseback they came. By noon, 30,000 persons had stationed themselves around the natural amphitheater that centered at the concrete canal called the “Cascades.” **
This was the day Los Angeles had long awaited. Wednesday, November 5, 1913, the day Owens River water, diverted 233 miles in the north by the new Aqueduct, would come roaring into the San Fernando Valley.A carnival atmosphere was prevalent throughout the crowd. Pennants (10 cents each) were selling briskly. The San Fernando Chamber of Commerce was distributing small souvenir bottles of Owens River water from a nearby booth.**
The motorcade containing the official welcoming party of civic leaders and Aqueduct “brass” arrived on the scene shortly after noon. As William Mulholland made his way through the throngs of jubilant well-wishers with his daughters, Rose and Lucille – Mrs. Mulholland was ill at home – the band played “Hail to the Chief.” **
The small speakers stand was filled by 12:10 pm when order was called by Joseph D. Radford, chairman of the Aqueduct and Exposition Park Celebration Commission. It was indeed a week for Los Angeles to remember for on Thursday – tomorrow, the celebration would move to Exposition Park in central Los Angeles where the dedication ceremony for the Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science and Art would take place.After a batch of the inevitable speeches ending with the remarks of Mayor H. H. Rose, it was “The Chief’s” turn to step forward.**
Mulholland spoke briefly and eloquently without a prepared address. He spoke of his gratitude and appreciation for the loyal support of his assistants and the citizens of Los Angeles. He spoke of responsibility:
“. . . . You have come here today to ask us to render an account of our stewardship, and we come ready to do it. If the project fails, we are to blame. We took this responsibility for failure willingly and gladly and have done the best we could . . . .”
“. . . . If there is a ‘father’ of the aqueduct, it is the man who went out and found the supply, who made the preliminary plans and who turned the project over to the city – former Mayor Fred Eaton, the pioneer of this project. He planned it – we simply put together the bricks and mortar . . . .”
“. . . . This rude platform is an altar, and on it we are here consecrating this water supply and dedicating this aqueduct to you and your children and your children’s children – for all time.”
The “Chief” paused for a moment as if in contemplation of his words. Then satisfied, he abruptly said, “That’s all,” and returned to his seat amid a tremendous roar from the crowd.
When the din subsided Mulholland was recalled to the podium. It was 1:10 pm – time to bring forth the water. And who else was more suitably qualified to usher this vital liquid into the sight of the assembled masses but the great engineer and leader of men, the Aqueduct builder himself, Bill Mulholland.The crowd, good natured but extremely noisy, grew quiet as Mulholland unfurled the Stars and Strips from the speakers stand flagstaff. This was the signal to General Adna R. Chaffee to have the gate valves above the “Cascades” opened. Chaffee was given this honor in recognition of his valuable service to the City as president of the Board of Public Works during the Aqueduct building period.**
“THERE IT IS” – The trickle was now an 18-mile per hour torrent racing wildly to the San Fernando Reservoir and any semblance of order in the crowd was lost. **
As the gates slowly raised releasing the first trickle of water down the “Cascades,” bedlam broke out again as the crowd broke and raced to the canal. Hundreds of cups were dipped into the sparkling water as if to immediately dispel the possibility that the morning had been just a dream.**
Hundreds of automobile horns beeped. Handkerchiefs, pennants and flags waved on outstretched arms. Hats arched into the sky already filled with bursting aerial bombs and rockets. An American flag oscillating at the end of a parachute slowly lowered to the ground.Horses reared in fright, dogs howled in vain hopes of silencing the ear-piercing sounds of rejoicing. Oblivious to the racket, the band played a rousing “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” **
The dedication program called for Mulholland to formally turn the Aqueduct over to Mayor Rose who would accept for the citizens of Los Angeles. Mulholland seeing the audience last and unable to compete with the band or the artillery pieces turned to Rose standing beside him and raising his hand toward the canal shouted:“There it is, Mr. Mayor. Take it!”
“Thank you, Chief,” laughed Mayor Rose.
“The speech I was going to deliver is printed in the afternoon papers, and I congratulate you quite as much as missing it from my lips as on having such a great project so successfully completed as the Aqueduct.” **
| Historical Notes |
Arm-in-arm the Chief and the Mayor left the grandstand to get a drink – of Aqueduct water, naturally. Owens River water, the nectar Los Angeles worked and waited so patiently for and invested so much in, had officially arrived.**
The Los Angeles Times’ 2nd headline the following day read: “Silver Torrent Crowns the City’s Mighty Achievement.” Under that headline, the Times reported:
|“From the mountain fastnesses of the snow-capped Sierras, through the world’s longest man-made conduit of steel, cement and solid granite, sparkling water poured in a mighty torrent from the aqueduct’s mouth… …It gurgled and splashed its cheerful message of good health, great wealth, long life and plenteous prosperity to Los Angeles and her people.”|
Estimated reading time: 58 minutes