L.A. Aqueduct Opening Ceremony

November 5, 1913

(November 5, 1913)* - 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.  


Historical Notes

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.” **




1913)* - The Official Program for the 1913 Los Angeles Aqueduct Opening Ceremony.  





1913)* - Map of the San Fernando Valley included in the Official Program. The map shows the location of the LA Aqueduct Event as well as how the new Owens River water would be distributed to different parts of the city.  





1913)* - Opening Ceremony Agenda (Page 1).  





1913)* - Opening Ceremony Agenda (Page 2).  






November 5, 1913)*^ - 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.  


Historical Notes

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.**





People began lining up early to get good views.*  







(November 5, 1913)*

Some people climbed up the hill adjacent to the water gate valves to get even better views.

















The crowds anxiously wait as the officials give their speeches.^^  


Historical Notes

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.” **




William Mulholland waiting for his turn to speak.  Next to him are Harrison Gray Otis and Ellen Beach Yaw.*  


Historical Notes

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.**




William Mulholland speaks to the crowd at the opening ceremonies of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.^^  


Historical Notes

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.**






Official Opening of the Water Gates - After the crowds are cleared from the hillside and the speeches completed, the water gates are opened and the LA Aqueduct water starts to flow.*






The water gates are now opened to full capacity. The gatemen were rather “high-priced” help themselves, including Mulholland’s top assistants: Roderick Mackay, chief construction engineer; H. A. Van Norman, Owens Valley division engineer; D. L. Reaburn, Saugus division engineer; A. C. Hansen, Jawbone Division engineer. The fifth man was Adna R. Chaffee, Jr., U. S. Army.*  


Historical Notes

“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. **





  Water starts flowing down the cascades into San Fernando Valley.






People watch in amazement as the Los Angeles Aqueduct water starts to flow down the cascades into the San Fernando Valley.*  


Historical Notes

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.**





Crowds cheer as Owens River water cascades down the channel into the Valley for the first time.*  


Historical Notes

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.” **




Men, women, and children stand in awe as water is released from the gates at the top of the cascades. Many of the spectators are waving American flags. The man with the hat rising above the flag on the right is non other than William Mulholland.^^  


Historical Notes

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.” **




Panoramic view of the opening day celebration of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, Novermber 5, 1913. Construction on the aqueduct began in 1908 after land and water rights were secured from the Owens Valley*  


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 crowds begin to disburse after experiencing one of the most important historical events in the history of Los Angeles. Click HERE to see more in Construction of the L.A. Aqueduct.*  



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.”








Click HERE to see full page of the Los Angeles Times article.*^*




Commemorative of the Official Opening of the LA Aqueduct and Exposition Park

On the next day, November 6, 1913, another celebration was held as a dedication of the opening of both the Los Angeles Aqueduct and Exposition Park. Click HERE to see the Official Commemorative Publication.




Come and Celebrate the 100 yr. Anniversary of the L.A. Aqueduct (November 5, 1913)

Click HERE to see Schedule of Events






Los Angeles Aqueduct History and Photos





References and Credits

* DWP - LA Public Library Image Archive

^ Opening of the LA Aqueduct and Exposition Park Commemorative (1913), Library of Congress F869.L8 D27

^^LA Times: Building the LA Aqueduct; William Mulholland

**LADWP Historic Archive

^*Oviatt Library Digital Archives

*^Skyscraperage.com - LA Times: LA Aqueduct

*^*Santa Clarita Valley History Website

**^California State Library Image Archive

^*^Official 1913 LA Aqueduct Program: Shirley Gonzales, Morris D. Olney



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