This year marks the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, a miracle of tunnels, channels and engineering bravado and precision that delivers water from a high desert, the Owens Valley, to one of our nation’s most dynamic and important cities, Los Angeles. The headline of the Los Angeles Times on July 29, 1905 read “Titanic Project to Give City a River.” Eight years later the project was completed and opening day ceremonies took place at the Cascades on November 5-6, 1913.
The Eastern California Museum has created an exhibit of exceptionally curated and interpreted photographs and maps from both the Museum’s collection as well as from the Library of Congress. The exhibit, “Building Bill’s Ditch: The Los Angeles Aqueduct, 1913 – 2013” is named for William “Bill” Mulholland, Los Angeles’ chief engineer. The captions are well-written and in some cases, really funny! The exhibit will run for about another 12 months and can be seen every day of the week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Museum, located at 155 North Grant Street in Independence, California, about 45 minutes south of Bishop.
Make a Day of It! Bring some sandwiches to eat at the Museum’s creek side picnic area. Then take a stroll through the ersatz Western village that the Museum built in the late 1960s and early 1970s; there you’ll find an assayer’s office, a blacksmith’s workshop, a brewery and some outhouses, among other buildings. The village is located right behind the Museum and is free. Let your imagination run wild and imagine walking into the Assay Office where you would bring your ore samples for testing; the man in charge could prove you had found something of value and would be made a rich miner or he would break your heart with the results from his analysis.
Independence is also where the Western writer Mary Austin (1868 – 1934), the inspiration for my character Mrs. Mary Parker, once lived (see my blog post about writing this story). Her home is still there at 253 Market Street. Between the Museum’s collection (more than 15,550 records and 27,000 historic photographs of the Eastern Sierra region) and Mary Austin’s house, the past is still vivid and intriguing in the Owens Valley town of Independence.