A crowd watched the first water cascade through the aqueduct in the San Fernando Valley in 1913. (Los Angeles Department of Water and Power)

How a ‘rude platform’ of water created the city of L.A.

In November 1913, water began pouring through the Los Angeles Aqueduct, making the city of Los Angeles as we know it possible. As social critic David Ulin recounted, photographs from the dedication ceremony in Sylmar captured “the apotheosis of the city’s creation myth.” One shot shows the water gushing into the waiting San Fernando Reservoir, a system that would pump life into a city with fewer people at the time than San Francisco.

There were men and women in suits and hats and long skirts, clutching American flags. Then there was William Mulholland himself, the legendary engineer who against overwhelming odds spearheaded the 233-mile aqueduct across the blistering Mojave Desert to the Owens River. “This rude platform,” he declared, “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.” Then he shouted to the crowd: “There it is. Take it.” Boom California | L.A. Times

This article is from the California Sun, a newsletter that delivers must-read stories to your inbox each morning . Sign up here.

Get your daily dose of the Golden State.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.