William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles

By Catherine Mulholland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Water Plots and Politics
1893–1895

EXPANSIONIST MANEUVERS

Los Angeles's determination to grow in the 1890s led not only to the creation of a harbor through annexation of land adjoining the sea and the development of an efficient interurban transportation system but also to the laying of a groundwork for a water system that everyone hoped would provide an ample supply for a burgeoning population. Not surprisingly, the decade produced critical legal battles and decisions that arose from the city's struggle to maintain its rights to the waters of the Los Angeles River. Of one major and complicated water suit in the 1890s—City of Los Angeles v. the Los Angeles Water Company—a reporter once wrote, “The kaleidoscopic character of the city's water litigation becomes more pronounced with every step taken by either of the parties involved. Just when by persistent effort some faint conception of the case is formed by the ordinary intelligent layman a new turn or twist is given, and the status of the case in some of its parts or in whole affords new ground for speculation. ” Mulholland, who would testify in many of the cases, later wrote that the “bitterly contested” lawsuits ultimately “produced a compendium of facts that covers every phase of the subject that could possibly be gleaned either directly by observation or by theoretical inference. ” 1

Much of the controversy in the 1890s concerned a crucial elbow bend of the Los Angeles River into which major feeder streams converged and flowed to the city from the San Fernando Valley, the Tujunga Wash, and the Coastal Basin. South of that bend and east of today's Crystal Springs

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