Rivers in the Desert: The Rise and Fall of William Mulholland

Overview

Rivers in the Desert tells a mythlike American story of how one man, through vision, daring, and engineering genius, invented the Los Angeles of the future, only to fall tragically from grace due to an unforeseen disaster. The man was William Mulholland; his creation, the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the tremendous waterway that transformed an arid and sparsely populated town into a thriving city of millions. In 1907, Mulholland and his army of 5,000 men began building the longest aqueduct in the Western hemisphere: 235...
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Overview

Rivers in the Desert tells a mythlike American story of how one man, through vision, daring, and engineering genius, invented the Los Angeles of the future, only to fall tragically from grace due to an unforeseen disaster. The man was William Mulholland; his creation, the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the tremendous waterway that transformed an arid and sparsely populated town into a thriving city of millions. In 1907, Mulholland and his army of 5,000 men began building the longest aqueduct in the Western hemisphere: 235 miles of canals, conduits, tunnels, flumes, and massive steel siphons that transport water from Owens Valley in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to water-starved Los Angeles. Today, the aqueduct still provides 70 percent of the city's water supply. While Mulholland devoted himself to the dream of an abundant West, others exploited the aqueduct plan, reaping immense profits. Land speculators earned millions as the population of Los Angeles swelled, while ruined Owens Valley ranchers, facing disastrous water shortages, mounted a vicious war, dynamiting the aqueduct and imperiling the distant city's water supply. Mulholland built the St. Francis Dam 50 miles north of Los Angeles in an attempt to safeguard his beloved city's water supply by creating a holding reservoir. Now, he thought, the future of Los Angeles was secure. Then disaster struck. The St. Francis collapsed mysteriously at midnight, March 12, 1928, flooding the valley and leaving a staggering toll of at least 500 dead. Called before a coroner's inquest and threatened with charges of murder and professional negligence, Mulholland found himself deserted by the powerful figures who had promoted his career and abandoned by the citizenry who had honored and adored him. He spent the rest of his life in self-imposed obscurity, never learning the truth behind the failure of the dam. The story of the aqueduct - the heroism of its builders, the record-breaking feats of engineering, the political shenanigans
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Editorial Reviews

Mary Carroll
In the annals of city building, there are few stories more compelling than arid Southern California's eternal search for water. Attorney Davis retells critical stages of this continuing saga in her life of Mulholland, the powerful bureaucrat who reshaped geography and redefined the future of his region. Mulholland's life contains the elements of classical tragedy, from stupendous success--the 1913 opening of the mammoth Los Angeles Aqueduct, bringing Owens River water 250 miles southwest to Los Angeles, and permitting the city's spectacular growth--to utter failure: the devastating collapse of the St. Francis Dam in 1928. Davis addresses some of the more controversial issues of Los Angeles' water wars, including the huge profits city leaders made by speculating in San Fernando Valley real estate, and the possibility that the St. Francis Dam was dynamited by Owens Valley terrorists, but her focus on Mulholland and his direct associates leaves some interesting aspects of the era relatively unexplored. Still, "Rivers in the Desert" offers a fascinating look at the political maneuvering and engineering marvels that moved the City of the Angels into the first rank of American cities.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060166984
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/1/1993
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 448

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