William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles

By Catherine Mulholland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Advancing,
in the Water Business
1880–1886

Mulholland's promotion in 1880 moved him from his shack near the river to another rude dwelling west of North Broadway in the hills of what is today Elysian Park (approximately the present site of the Buena Vista Power Station). He was to be in charge of a crew laying an extension of twenty-two-inch pipe parallel to the west bank of the river to the toe of the Buena Vista Reservoir, which, under Fred Eaton, was undergoing one of its several enlargements. Living alone and largely indifferent to creature comforts, Mulholland possessed minimal housekeeping skills and would later recall that the place “looked like the devil. ” His only heat was a smoky stove that his uncle, Roderick Deakers, rigged up for him. The tree-planting urges persisted, however, as out of his own pocket he paid for and planted more than a thousand saplings, as well as cultivating seedlings in salmon cans whose original contents had comprised a main staple of his diet. Around the site of the Buena Vista Reservoir he set out eucalyptus, palm, willow, and live oak, some of which still live over a century later on land now used as a park and picnic grounds. 1

While Mulholland laid pipe during the summer of 1880, Fred Eaton went off with his father for three weeks on an expedition whose findings would one day alter the history of Southern California—and ultimately, some would say, that of the entire state. During the drought of the late 1870s, Benjamin Eaton had become concerned about water for his vineyards in Pasadena. Aware that cattlemen in the south took their herds north during the summer to Owens Valley, where water was abundant,

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