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Photography

Wednesday, November 14, 2007 Mulholland Falls

You've probably seen the 1973 movie Chinatown, where Roman Polanski turns the history of Los Angeles' municipal water system into a murder mystery. Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway have a fine old time and it won an Oscar (Best Screenplay).  But long before that, someone turned the history of Los Angeles' municipal water system into an impressive modernist fountain.  That would be Walter S. Clayberg with the William Mulholland Memorial Fountain, at the intersection of Riverside Drive and Los Feliz Boulevard, at the edge of Griffith Park, dedicated on August 1, 1940.

It's seen better days, but has recently been restored. The colored lights are gone it used to be known as the "Kool-Aid" fountain because of the way those pastel lights illuminated the water at night, from the inside out. Ah well, you can't have everything.

It's not a bad place to hang out on a hot, dry Wednesday afternoon in November in Los Angeles no clouds, relentless sun, pushing ninety.  No one was around, just a massive Paramount movie crew one block south doing some location work.  Makes you think of that line from the Polanski movie "'Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough."

William Mulholland Memorial Fountain, Walter S. Clayberg, Designer, 1940
William Mulholland Memorial Fountain, Walter S. Clayberg, Designer, 1940
William Mulholland Memorial Fountain, Walter S. Clayberg, Designer, 1940
William Mulholland Memorial Fountain, Walter S. Clayberg, Designer, 1940
William Mulholland Memorial Fountain, Walter S. Clayberg, Designer, 1940
William Mulholland Memorial Fountain, Walter S. Clayberg, Designer, 1940

What you should know

    William Mulholland was a "penniless Irish immigrant" and a self-taught engineer who became head of the Los Angeles Bureau of Water Works & Supply at a time when business and civic leaders in Los Angeles were realizing that development would remain limited without additional water resources. Mulholland, with the support of another visionary, Fred Eaton, implemented a plan to redirect water from the Owens Valley on the eastern slopes of the Sierras. The result of their efforts, the California Aqueduct, is one of the great engineering wonders of the world. Employing 5000 workers and 6000 mules, the 238- mile long aqueduct was completed under budget in record time.

    Mulholland, the poor immigrant who lived for a time in a one-room wooden shack near the present-day fountain, died in 1935. The fountain dedicated to him was completed in 1940. Approximately 3,000 people attended the dedication ceremony on August 1, 1940. A memorial plaque at the foot of the fountain reads, "To William Mulholland (1855-1935): A Penniless Irish Immigrant Boy who Rose by the Force of his Industry, Intelligence, Integrity and Intrepidity to be a Sturdy American Citizen, a Self-Educated Engineering Genius, a Whole-Hearted Humanitarian, The Father of this City's Water System, and the Builder of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. This Memorial is Gratefully Dedicated to those who are the Recipients of His Unselfish Bounty and the Beneficiaries of His Prophetic Vision."

William Mulholland Memorial Fountain, Walter S. Clayberg, Designer, 1940

And that led to the movie. As for that August day, the dedication, it went like this

    Approximately 3,000 people spilled across Los Feliz Boulevard, some standing on the adjacent hill in Griffith Park. The Los Angeles Police Band played. The Civic Chorus sang. The Aqueduct Post Color Guard presented the flag. Mayor Fletcher Bowron accepted the fountain on behalf of the city, predicting that "as the crystal pureness of the water . . . radiates brilliantly in the sun . . . or shimmers in the colors of myriad electric lights," the fountain would help to develop "a greater civic pride, a more developed civic consciousness."

But it is just a pleasant old fountain.

William Mulholland Memorial Fountain, Walter S. Clayberg, Designer, 1940

Tourist Shots

William Mulholland Memorial Fountain, Walter S. Clayberg, Designer, 1940
William Mulholland Memorial Fountain, Walter S. Clayberg, Designer, 1940

If you wish to use any of these photos for commercial purposes I assume you'll discuss that with me. And should you choose to download any of these images and use them invoking the "fair use" provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976, please provide credit, and, on the web, a link back this site.

Technical Note:

Most of these photographs were shot with a Nikon D70 - using lens (1) AF-S Nikkor 18-70 mm 1:35-4.5G ED, or (2) AF Nikkor 70-300mm telephoto, or after 5 June 2006, (3) AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor, 55-200 mm f/4-5.6G ED. They were modified for web posting using Adobe Photoshop 7.0.  Earlier photography was done with a Sony Mavica digital still camera (MVC-FD-88) with built-in digital zoom.

From this site a postcard from the forties from when it was known as the "Kool-Aid" fountain

William Mulholland Memorial Fountain, Walter S. Clayberg, Designer, 1940  - old postcard
[Mulholland Falls]

All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 - Alan M. Pavlik