Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

1912: Workers building the Los Angeles Aqueduct are "riveting the aqueduct conduit," according to a short caption on the back of this print. The date on back indicates this image was published in the Jan. 1, 1913, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Pipe lies next to a trench being dug by steam shovel during construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The exact location and date of the photo are unknown.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

1911: A work crew poses with Steam Shovel No. 10, Olancha division, during construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. This photo was published in The Times on June 11, 1911, with a story updating progress on the project.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: File / West Coast Art Co.

1911: Workers pause during construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct in this photo published in the June 18, 1911, Los Angeles Times with the caption: "End view of false work."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: West Coast Art Co.

1911: A ditch is being prepared for cement lining during construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. This photo was published in the June 18, 1911, Los Angeles Times with the caption: "Dressing Crew."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: West Coast Art Co.

1911: Image of the Los Angeles Aqueduct construction shows the wooden framework used to shape poured cement. This photo was published in the June 18, 1911, Los Angeles Times with the caption: "False work under the cement. Removed when the cement is poured."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: West Coast Art Co.

1911: A section of pipe, at top, is lowered by crane to be fitted to a longer section of the Los Angeles Aqueduct at Nine Mile Canyon. Nineteen hundred feet of pipe was laid across the canyon. This photo was published in The Times on Aug. 22, 1911.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

A section of the aqueduct known as Dead Man Siphon inches up a hill. This print was not dated.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

A rotary cement mill used in the construction of the aqueduct. The date of this photo is unknown.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Mule trains were used to haul pipes over the desert because they proved more dependable than motorized vehicles. The original date of this photo is unknown, but it was later published in the Los Angeles Times on Sept. 17, 1939.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

1912: The nine-mile siphon is part of the Little Lakes section of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. This photo was published in The Times on Sept. 1, 1912.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

1912: The back of the print indicates that this is the "cement crew at North Portal" and that the photo was published on Jan. 1, 1913.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

1912: The No Name Siphon crosses a desert gully. This photo was published in the Jan. 1, 1913, Los Angeles Times. Pencil crop marks were left on the original print.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

1911: A mule team hauls sections of pipe during construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. This print was obtained from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in 1963, but the image appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Sept. 22, 1911.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

1911: A steam shovel digging conduit during construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The back of the print indicates this image was published in The Times on Jan. 1, 1912.

Oct. 16, 1913: The gates are opened, allowing water to cascade down above the San Fernando Dam during a test run and photo opportunity for the new Los Angeles Aqueduct 19 days before the opening ceremonies. This photo was credited to "Bledsoe" and ran in The Times on Oct. 17, 1913.

Nov. 5, 1913: A crowd that reached more than 40,000 gathers for the official opening of the new Los Angeles Aqueduct. This photo was published in the Nov. 6, 1913, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Nov. 5, 1913: Expectant crowds line the new Los Angeles Aqueduct on opening day. This photo was published in the Nov. 6, 1913, Los Angeles Times and appeared in The Times' 2000 book "Imagining Los Angeles: Photographs of a 20th Century City."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Nov. 5, 1913: William Mulholland, head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, speaks to the crowd at the opening ceremonies of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The lower left corner and sky above the hills were removed when this photo was published in the Nov. 6, 1913, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Nov. 13, 1913: A crowd swarms the opening ceremonies of the new Los Angeles Aqueduct. Gen. Adna Chaffee, president of the Water Board, turned the wheel that allowed the Owens River water to flow into the Los Angeles mains through the aqueduct built by William Mulholland. Photo from Historical Collection-Security First National Bank of Los Angeles.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: File

Nov. 5, 1913: The first gush of Owens River water reaches the north end of the San Fernando Valley during the opening of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The Times' headline the next day: “Silver Torrent Crowns the City’s Mighty Achievement.”

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Nov. 6, 1913: Members of the 7th Regiment of the California National Guard march in a parade on the second day of celebrations marking the opening of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. This photo was published in the Nov. 7, 1913, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

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Building the Los Angeles Aqueduct

1910-13: Photos track the building of the Los Angeles Aqueduct — the most important public works structure in L.A. history.

In 1999, Times staff writer David Colker reported in the San Fernando Valley edition:

The most important structure in San Fernando Valley history lies almost wholly outside the Valley. More than 230 miles long, it stretches along desert land, goes through mountains and is suspended above rivers.

It’s the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which can carry 260 million gallons of water a day from the Sierra Nevada to the city. Opening on Nov. 5, 1913, the aqueduct allowed Los Angeles to grow far larger than would have been possible if forced to rely on local water sources.

It also enabled the Valley itself to be converted from semidesert to farmland and, ultimately, subdivisions.

The story of how the aqueduct, described at the time as the largest water project since Roman times, was constructed is one of heroics, strife and a surprisingly small amount of human tragedy, given the monumental scale of the task and the conditions under which it was built.

Construction began in 1907, following a plan devised by the city’s top water official, self-taught engineer William Mulholland. The support systems for the project, as described in Margaret Leslie Davis’ book about the aqueduct, “Rivers in the Desert,” were massive: 500 miles of paved road and rail line, two hydroelectric plants, one of the largest cement factories in the world, 240 miles of telephone wire and more than 2,300 buildings, including warehouses, barns, hospitals and movable tent houses for workers.

At the same time preparatory work was being done, Mulholland sent crews to tackle the project’s most difficult task, the boring of the five-mile Elizabeth Tunnel through the San Gabriel Mountains near Lake Hughes. Drilling holes into the granite for dynamite charges was done with hand tools until an electric plant could be completed to provide power. Even then, the work was so laborious that commonly only five feet of progress was made in a 12-hour shift.

Mulholland, respected by the crews because he was often on site and shared their miserable living conditions, was frustrated at the slow pace. He announced the new goal was eight feet a day, and bonuses would be paid for any crew that exceeded it. Competition between the crews working from the north and south portals became intense, with workers continuing to haul muck from the tunnel even when it was almost filled with water gushing in from underwater sources.

Work above ground, where temperatures sometimes exceeded 120 degrees in the Mojave Desert, was hardly easier. To get the aqueduct down the 800-foot drop in Jawbone Canyon, located in the western Mojave, workers had to haul into place pipe sections that weighed more than 25 tons apiece.

Even so, the project was completed on time and within its $23-million budget.

Although the water was deposited at the foot of the Valley, it all technically belonged to the city of Los Angeles. The city declared that residents of other areas could make use of it as long as they agreed to have their land annexed to L.A.

In 1915, major portions of the Valley did just that, helping to more than double the size of Los Angeles that year.

The photo gallery above consists of 100-year-old prints scanned from the Los Angeles Times archive. Some prints show retouching done by former Times artists. Dates penciled in on the back of some images are believed to be publication dates, but the corresponding pages are missing from the Los Angeles Times digital page archive.

As more images are located and researched, this gallery will be updated. Several images were used in a previous From the Archive post: Los Angeles Aqueduct: ‘Mighty achievement’, which covers the aqueduct opening.

1 Comment

  1. November 12, 2014, 4:46 pm

    Photo #8 looks like it might have been taken either at Bouquet Canyon Road or Soledad Canyon Road, both in today's city of Santa Clarita.

    By: tallahto@hotmail.com

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