Catherine Mulholland, historian who explored grandfather’s legacy, dies at 88

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

Source: LAT, 7-6-11

Catherine Mulholland, a historian whose biography of her grandfather William Mulholland sought to correct the image of the man who was sometimes vilified for his central role in bringing water to Southern California, died of natural causes Wednesday at her home in Camarillo, Calif. She was 88 and had been in decline for several months, her family said.

Mulholland was one of the last two grandchildren of the rugged Irish immigrant who oversaw the construction of the 230-mile aqueduct that carries water from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles. It is one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century and a continuing source of controversy for the water wars it provoked.

In high school, a teacher suggested that Mulholland read what historian Carey McWilliams and other writers had said about her grandfather. She was “sobered and perplexed” by their accounts, which cast him as one of the “exploitative overlords” of Southern California.

Probing forgotten records and family memories of a past that she said haunted her for years, she wrote “William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles” (2000) to provide what she believed was a fairer, more nuanced view of the family patriarch, a ditch tender who rose to chief of what is now the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

William Mulholland, she said, had been “falsely accused of conspiring with vested interests in the San Fernando Valley in building the aqueduct.” She portrayed him as a “pragmatic progressive” who was driven by a vision of public works for the greatest public good.

Securing the region’s water future with the 1913 opening of the aqueduct made him such a hero that local leaders named a road after him – Mulholland Drive, which runs along the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains….READ MORE

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