"This Rude Platform is an Altar."
A carnival atmosphere prevailed for the dedication
ceremonies at the “Cascades” on November 5, 1913. The San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce distributed
bottles of Owens River water to the 30,000 celebrants who arrived by
car, wagon, and buggy. The
Southern Pacific charged $1 for a round trip ticket from Los Angeles to
the site of the San Fernando Reservoir near Newhall.
Pennants proclaiming the event sold for 10 cents.
rose to begin the ceremonies. He
thanked his assistants and the City of Los Angeles for their loyal
support. His address to the
crowd was brief, “This rude platform is an altar, and on it we are
here consecrating this water supply and dedicating the Aqueduct to you
and your children and your children’s children-for all time.”
He paused for a moment as if contemplating his words.
The satisfied, he abruptly said, “That’s all,” and returned
to his seat amid a tremendous roar from the crowd.
When the din subsided he was recalled to bring forth the
water. The good natured but
noisy crowd grew quiet as Mulholland unfurled the American flag from the
speaker’s stand flagstaff. This
was the signal to General Adna R. Chaffee, President of the Board of
Public Works during the Aqueduct period, to perform the honored task of
opening the gate valves.
At Chaffee’s command five men atop the concrete gatehouse
put their weight to the great wheels that would lift the gates and
release the water into the canal.
With the first trickle the crowd broke and ran to the
canal. Hundreds of cups
were dipped to the sparkling water.
Horses reared in fright as the crowds cheered and horns blared.
The band played “Yankee Doodle Dandy”.
The program had called for Mulholland to formally turn the
Aqueduct over to the Mayor, J.J. Rose, who would accept it on behalf of
the people. However, all
semblance of order had been lost. Mulholland
turned to Rose, next to him on the platform, and said, “There it is
Mr. Mayor. Take it.”
Mulholland had predicted that Los Angeles would have a population of almost 260,000 the day the aqueduct opened. But in 1913 Los Angeles had reached the dizzying figure of 485,000 residents. Within ten years Mulholland and others would be looking for water again.