Thanks for your interest in exploring interesting and important aspects of Los Angeles’ past, present and future.
Assembled below are 23 interesting (and often important) questions and answers about Los Angeles. For the inquisitive mind, these short answers may not be enough. So, each Q&A provides citations to key source material available on the shelves of the Los Angeles Public Library.
The topics explore how Los Angeles was founded, populated, organized, educated, transported, recreated, governed and administered. Particular attention is paid to the fields of business and economics, natural resources, transportation with special attention to the preservation of historic materials for use by researchers interested in the future of Los Angeles. Recent additions to the Q&A relates to Los Angeles’ supply of a most critical resource: clean water.
It is the hope of the Board of Trustees of the Haynes Foundation that these materials will stimulate your interest in learning more about how a site originally proposed for a Franciscan mission in 1769 grew into one of the greatest regional economies in the world.
As water from the Owens Valley began to flow in 1913 through the Los Angeles Aqueduct, it was clear to City planners that substantially more water would be required to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding Los Angeles. It took nearly 30 years, but water began to flow from across the Mojave Desert to Los Angeles via the Colorado River Aqueduct. The prime mover in this technical marvel was the creation in 1928 of the six-county Metropolitan Water District (a “crown jewel” of Los Angeles).
The design and construction of the largest water supply system in the US, through deserts and mountains, was enabled by a world-class source for science and engineering that was already located in Southern California. That source was Pasadena’s California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
The construction of the Colorado River Aqueduct was unprecedented in both size and complexity, requiring the coordinated efforts of over 30,000 workers. Since every day and minute counted, the Metropolitan Water District had to find a way to provide health care for these workers and their families. The answer was a novel, pre-paid insurance program that became the world standard for efficient and effective medical care and a familiar name in Los Angeles, Kaiser Permanente.
The timing was fortuitous. In 1941, the US Army needed to train millions of soldiers for combat in harsh terrain in the overseas theaters of World War II. At the same time, fresh water from the Colorado River had begun to flow through the Mojave Desert. General George Patton put the two together and moved quickly to establish the Desert Training Center. By 1944, over one million American soldiers had been trained at the Desert Training Center before their deployment overseas.
The General Patton Memorial Museum located in Chiriaco Summit, CA is an excellent resource for information on General Patton and US Military history. It is also home to the “Big Map,” a five ton model of the 50,000 acres along the route of the Colorado River Aqueduct. The “Big Map” travelled to Washington DC to gain support for the project from the US Congress.
Lying deep below the Los Angeles region are a number of groundwater basins. These basins provide the foundation and source for much of the region’s water supplies. As demand increases, the load on these basins will also increase. The Metropolitan Water District is developing new technology to use recycled water to re-charge these critical aquifers.
There is a 1930 photograph of the formal dedication of UCLA’s Westwood campus that featured Dr. John R. Haynes as a UC Regent. What were the connections among Dr. Haynes, the UC system and UCLA and how strong were they?
7. Dora Fellows Haynes
Dora Fellows Haynes was born in 1859, and married Dr. John Randolph Haynes in 1882. During those times, what opportunities did a woman in Los Angeles have in participating in politics and public issues?
Los Angeles and San Francisco seem to be following very different approaches to economic success with very different results. Is this accurate?
9. LA Infrastructure
In light of Los Angeles’ natural advantages, why does Los Angeles need so many massive infrastructure projects (rail, air, auto, port, water supply) and will they be sufficient to meet the needs of tomorrow?
In 1941, at the beginning of World War II, planners in Los Angeles needed a plan to accommodate industry, housing and transportation. Where did they find help?
11. Great Architecture and Los Angeles
The popular view seems to be that Los Angeles has little great architecture and few historic homes. Is this in fact the case?
12. Direct Democracy
Politics in California has some unique features, one of which is “direct democracy.” What does this term mean?
13. Los Angeles Governance Design
I understand that the government of the City of Los Angeles was originally designed to be simple and to function without political parties (unlike other big U.S. cities). How is the City governed today?
14. Elections and Diversity
Elections seem to emphasize divisions among voters: by race, income, heritage, gender, religion, marital status. Can these divided groups ever work together?
By the 1760’s, the colonial port cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Savannah, Mobile and New Orleans were thriving, but Los Angeles is not even on a map. Where can I get the facts about the origin of the City of Los Angeles.
16. Governing the Vast LA Metropolitan Area
Los Angeles County with its mountains, deserts, cities, beaches and a population of 10 million is extremely difficult to govern: How is it done today and can it be done better?
The City of Los Angeles is the most spread out, decentralized city I have ever seen. How is the City of Los Angeles organized and most importantly, who do I call to get something done?
18. Maynard Parker and LA Style
After 15 years of the Great Depression (1929–1940), World War II (1941-1945) and the Korean War (1950–1954), Americans must have been looking forward to a return to a more normal, secure and unpretentious way of life. Where did they find it?
19. Best Beaches
In 1900, I heard that the most popular beach in the Los Angeles area was the beach on Terminal Island. What happened to that beach and how was it connected to the “Great Free-Harbor Fight”?
20. Accuracy and “Chinatown”
Whenever the topic of “water” comes up in a conversation, someone always refers to the 1974 movie “Chinatown” as the final word about Los Angeles’ early efforts to control the distribution of water and electricity. How accurate is that movie?
It is rare for a foundation in Los Angeles (or anywhere else) to fund Archival Grants. What is the purpose of the Haynes Foundation’s Archival Grants program and what do the results look like?
Is the County of Los Angeles able to work with the agencies of the City of Los Angeles, the State of California, and the US Federal Government and if so, how effective are those relationships.
What are the links between the Haynes Foundation and Paul Landacre, an outstanding print maker and resident of Echo Park? This is a story about several important figures who left an enduring legacy on Los Angeles nearly a century ago: Dr. John Randolph Haynes, Mr. Paul Landacre and Mr. Robert Farquhar. And part of the shared legacy is one of the grand homes of Los Angeles in the early 1900’s. A key clue can be found on line 7 of the Haynes Foundation’s ledger for December 2, 1935. What you see there is that the Haynes Foundation paid “Paul Landacre” “$25.00” for a “Wood Block.”