"There it is. Take it."
March 13, 2006 2:12 PM   Subscribe

Eighty years ago, William Mulholland completed his final project: the St. Francis Dam, which converted San Francisquito Canyon--about 5 miles northeast of what is now Santa Clarita, California--into a 38,000 acre-foot reservoir for Los Angeles/Owens River aqueduct water. You're probably familiar with Mulholland's name --he designed and built the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the beginning of the system with which Los Angeles is supplied water from the Central Valley--and as a gesture of gratitude, the city named its most scenic highway in his honor. Mulholland, the California Water Wars, the aqueduct, and the dam were also referenced and alluded to extensively in Roman Polanski's Chinatown. But the man who helped build an immense metropolis by bringing water to the desert has only a small fountain as a memorial to his legacy. Three minutes before midnight, on March 12, 1928...
posted by fandango_matt (19 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

and the fantastic song...
posted by unknowncommand at 2:40 PM on March 13, 2006

has only a small fountain as a memorial to his legacy

What about Mulholland Drive?
posted by doctor_negative at 2:58 PM on March 13, 2006

very good post. and poor Tony Harnischfeger.
John Huston as Mulholland gives me the willies.

"There it is. Take it." What a badass.
posted by matteo at 3:07 PM on March 13, 2006

ps how does "Cheney Drive" sound?
posted by matteo at 3:08 PM on March 13, 2006

Or, I could have read all the links before I post :(
posted by doctor_negative at 3:22 PM on March 13, 2006

doctor_negative ... from the post: "the city named its most scenic highway in his honor"

Also ... isn't that the fountain by Griffith Park in Los Feliz? That's a pretty big fountain.
posted by redteam at 4:11 PM on March 13, 2006

Great post. Does it seem to anyone else that LA had a much higher concentration of asskickers during that time?
posted by shoos at 4:43 PM on March 13, 2006

It is a pretty big fountain, also, last year he was featured in the DWP's holiday lights.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:50 PM on March 13, 2006

Ah yeah, this was one of the things we talked about in an engineering geology class. It was somewhat dubious geology work that was carried out before construction (but the didn't know better at the time really I guess...).

Coincidentially, there was a fault *directly* underneath the dam (which in itself is a huge problem), but it provided a sort of pipe for water to flow through, actually beneath the dam and undermine it. Yikes.

It would have been an incredible site to see though...

Interestingly enough, the Hollywood Dam is of the exact same design! (But it doesn't have a fault directly underneath it fortunately).

For some other interesting dam failures, check out the Teton Dam (1976).
posted by RockBandit at 5:06 PM on March 13, 2006

Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert has a chapter on Mulholland, the LA aqueduct, and the St. Francis dam disaster. To my mind, this is the most astonishing passage:
"You're from the Park Service, aren't you?" Mulholland demanded more than asked.
"Yes, I am," said Albright. "Why do you ask?"
"Why?" Mulholland said archly. "Why? I'll tell you why. You have a beautiful park up north. A majestic park. Yosemite Park, it's called. You've been there, have you?"
Albright said he had. He was the park's superintendent.
"Well, I'm going to tell you what I'd do with your park. Do you want to know what I would do?"
Albright said he did.
"Well, I'll tell you. You know this new photographic process they've invented? It's called Pathe. It makes everything seem life like. The hues and coloration are magnificent. Well, the, what I would do, If I were custodian of your park, is I'd hire a dozen of the best photographers in the world. I'd build them cabins in Yosemite Valley and pay them something and give them all the film they wanted. I'd say, "This park is yours. It's yours for one year. I want you to take photographs in every season. I want you to capture all the colors, all the waterfalls, all the snow, and all the majesty. I especially want you to photograph the rivers. In the early summer, when the Merced River roars, I want to see that.' And then I'd leave them be. And in a year I'd come back and take their film, and send it out and have it developed and treated by Pathe. And then I would print the pictures in thousands of books and send them to every library. I would urge every magazine in the country to print them and tell every gallery and museum to hang them. I would make certain that every American saw them. And then, " Mulholland said slowly, with what Albright remembered as a vulpine grin, " and then do you want I would do? I'd go in there and build a dam from one side of that valley to the other and stop the goddamned waste!"
posted by Guy Smiley at 5:09 PM on March 13, 2006

Cadillac Desert is a fantastic book!
posted by RockBandit at 5:13 PM on March 13, 2006

I'd go in there and build a dam from one side of that valley to the other and stop the goddamned waste!

OK, that's creepy as hell. I want to read that book now.

But ... they already put a dam in Yosemite.
posted by frogan at 5:31 PM on March 13, 2006

what? no Huell Howser links?

yes, great post BTW.
posted by lazymonster at 5:34 PM on March 13, 2006

Ole! Ole! Ole!
posted by JekPorkins at 5:41 PM on March 13, 2006

Interesting thread. Let's not forget the famous Johnstown Flood.

And quite a few folks along the Mohawk River in upstate New York are worried about about the state of the Gilboa Dam. The associated reservoir supplies about 20% of the water for New York City. The damn was built long ago without any geological studies and there are concerns that the bedrock might shift given the usual spring flooding. The dam does not meet current safety standards.

Thinks aren't looking too perky here but stabilizing repairs are underway.

I have to admit, though, that FEMA's downloadable (for a fee) flood maps are fascinating (I'm being serious. It's very interesting!). And the NOAA does a great job of disseminating info of the potential flood situation.

...oh, and I keep a kodiak inflatable raft under my bed (LOL).
posted by bim at 8:26 PM on March 13, 2006

Thirty-five years later...again, tragedy strikes LA.
posted by Guy Smiley at 9:10 PM on March 13, 2006

Thank you, JekPorkins and unknowncommand, for the wonderful Charles Thompson references!
posted by NationalKato at 7:48 AM on March 14, 2006

Whoa, posting on Metafilter is dangerous:

Breaking news on 3/14/2006:
Dam in Hawaii Bursts; Seven People Missing
posted by redteam at 2:23 PM on March 14, 2006

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