William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles

By Catherine Mulholland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
Desperate Remedies
in a Dry Season
1904

A WATER CRISIS

As dry conditions continued through the winter of 1903–1904, railroad officials were announcing that they expected 10,000 colonists to arrive in California in 1904, and builders were anticipating a boom. Meanwhile, thousands of cattle were starving in the Antelope Valley for lack of rain, and returning hunters reported that Lake Elizabeth had disappeared, leaving only a mud flat. Field crop growers announced that between winter frosts and drought, shipments of vegetables from Southern California had fallen several hundred carloads below estimate. In Los Angeles, pine trees in Elysian Park were turning brown from lack of water, and on January 10, the city's clergymen called for all the churches on the coming Sabbath to pray for rain. 1

As water demands besieged the department, Mulholland scrambled to meet the needs. Not only was the population growing but its hygienic practices were changing. When the principal of one grammar school produced estimates that only 23 percent of American homes had bathtubs, she prevailed upon the school superintendent to have a bath house built on the school grounds so the children could bathe. Although some parents were indignant at the inference that their offspring might need ablutions, the program became so successful that the superintendent began to install bathtubs and showers in other city schools. New homes with improved plumbing also increased demands for water and put a greater

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