William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles

By Catherine Mulholland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
The New Superintendent
1887–1892

BOOM TIMES AND WASHOUTS

Mulholland's advancement to superintendent of the water company coincided with the city's first land boom, which, though brief, was dramatic. The population of Los Angeles bounded from 11,000 to 50,000 in less than three years as large areas of heretofore unoccupied land were promoted and established as town sites and new communities. With the upheaval, the need for public services became acute, so Mulholland and Eaton, the two chiefly responsible for maintaining the city's mains and drains, must at times have felt that they were the busiest men in the expanding town.

Heavy rains fell during Mulholland's first months as superintendent, and although rainfall for the entire season proved normal (14.05 inches), downpours in February did almost as much damage as those that had fallen in 1883–1884. Streets flooded, bridges went out, and water from the Big Tujunga Wash roared into the Los Angeles River, destroying the railroad bridge east of San Fernando. Rumors arose that Reservoir No. 4 north of Temple Street was about to break as it had six years before. Although the reservoir held, to avert a panic, police were sent out to assure neighboring dwellers that they were safe. The city remained isolated for several days and suffered extensive damage. For a time, bridge washouts completely cut off Boyle Heights. 1

Serving his second year as city surveyor, Eaton had to deal with problems not only of sewage and sanitation but also those of reordering the

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