The remarkable life of the self-taught, Irish-born civil engineer who led the long, extraordinary effort to bring water to early Los Angeles.
Catherine Mulholland (The Owensmouth Baby, not reviewed), William's granddaughter, researched her highly detailed biography from office files, vintage newspapers, city archives, and interviews covering the early history and rise of a great city. William Mulholland's story began with the discovery of a rich water source in Owens Valley. The transportation of this liquid gold to distant Los Angeles was made possible by the massive engineering feat of the Owens Valley Aqueduct—a project that took over a decade to build amid disheartening problems involving financing, hostile landowners and politicians, a biased media, and some radical sabotage. The author describes an unflappable man of iron character, construction expertise, and courage. Mulholland was an avid reader and yet a man of action—a dam builder, a solver of problems who planned and directed the application of the hardest and most dangerous physical labor in planting pipelines through wild deserts and the blasting miles of tunnels through mountainous countryside to finally bring precious water and hydroelectric power to the fast-growing city. In 18 years, Mulholland rose from obscurity to become a leading citizen. His later years were saddened by the mysterious collapse of one of his dams, a tragedy that took 400 lives. Part of the author's intent in creating this biography was to correct what she claims are misleading and distorted themes in the 1979 movie Chinatown.
A comprehensive account of a mostly forgotten era, casting new light on Mulholland's legendary achievements for the city of Los Angeles—as well as an enlightening addition to the history of the American West.