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Buying land in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles in 1910

Buying land in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles in 1910 would have been a good investment. There was no steady supply of water there, just the promise of an aqueduct being built to bring in water from Lake Owens almost 300 miles away. So most people would have thought you were crazy to invest. In fact, they would have laughed themselves silly. Bringing water to Los Angeles from that distance was absolutely unthinkable. Stories of the Owens Valley Aqueduct sounded like Jules Verne science fiction. This was 1910, a time when for most people horsepower meant horse power. And it was a era of a lot of crazy speculation, from oil wells to gold mines.

Of course, there was no way of knowing if this was going to ever happen, and your investment could have gone the way of millions of other crazy investments created by people who were either "unrealistically optimistic", or just plain con men.

But the aqueduct was built, and the water did arrive, three years later. And the value of the land skyrocketed. The Los Angeles City Engineer at the time, William Mulholland, designed it all, and on the day of its grand opening, at the Cascades, on November 5th, 1913, as he began his speech, the water was set flowing too early and drowned out everything he had planned to say, except "there it is, take it!"

The story of how water was brought to Los Angeles has been blurred by fictional accounts, like the movie "Chinatown". And the fiction is interesting, and Chinatown is a great movie. But the reality is just spectacular engineering, which is impressive enough if you understand it. There's no need for fiction, or conspiracy.

By the way, you can still see the Cascades, near Sylmar, in the northeast San Fernando Valley. If you're interested in engineering, it's worth a look.

The Casades. Near Sylmar, which is at the northeast corner of the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, California.

Ad for the Lankershim and Van Nuys Ranchos in 1910, from the Los Angeles Herald, Library of Congress 

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