Opening Day of the Los Angeles Aqueduct – November 5, 1913 below “The Cascades”. The waters which began their journey about 90 days before, near Lee Vining and Mono Lake, finally reach their destination. The Cascades are designed to both aerate the water before it goes to filtration, also dissipate some of the force the water has gained on its downhill journey.
William Mulholland and other city officials presided over the inauguration of the first Los Angeles Aqueduct after building the water system and bringing it in on time and on budget.
It is estimated that over 30,000 people attended the opening day ceremonies of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. They came to watch the Owens Valley water cascade into the San Fernando Valley.
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.” **
Crowds arrive for the historical opening ceremony of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. They came by Southern Pacific trains ($1 roundtrip from the Los Angeles terminal), in automobiles, wagons and buggies – and also on horseback.
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 crowds anxiously wait as the officials give their speeches.
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.**