Thursday, July 9, 2009
Mystery History -- Solved
Paul Little wins this week's fabulous prize with his guess "workers building the flood control channel south of Devil's Gate Dam."
In the photo above, State Emergency Relief Administration (SERA) workers dig a channel through the Central Arroyo Seco in 1934.
Earlier that year, the Los Angeles County Flood Control District had been reorganized with a semi-independent commission, and a flood bond issue was passed by voters shortly thereafter.
Here's the photo before I cropped it and erased some key identifying information:
This trapezoidal channel with a soft bottom was constructed from Devil's Gate Dam to Holly Street.
The English translation of Arroyo Seco -- Dry Stream -- is deceiving. Many floods have come crashing through the Arroyo Seco, including the worst in L.A. County history in 1884, and continuing over the next 50 years.
The 1930s was an era of large-scale construction projects all over the U.S. by otherwise out-of-work Americans who were employed by SERA as well as the federal Civil Works Administration and Works Progress Administration.
Here's the same 1934 project, but this time we're looking south. Note the Vista del Arroyo Hotel.
The SERA workers weren't responsible for the ugly concrete channel -- that came later, in the 1940s, as the Army Corps of Engineers' response to a devastating 1938 flood.
Since the early 1990s the removal of the concrete has been a high priority in Pasadena.
I don't want to get too far afield from this week's Mystery History photo, so we'll talk about the restoration of the natural stream bed another time.
Many thanks to Pasadena Public Library and the Arroyo Seco Foundation.