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45 Years Ago: New Water and Power Headquarters Dedicated

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, June 24, 2010, at 01:13PM
Aerial View of DWP - 1964 Dick Whittington Studio / USC Digital Archives [digitallibrary.usc.edu]

This aerial photo from 1964 shows the nearly completed DWP headquarters building at 1st and Hope.

On June 24, 1965, civic officials and business leaders gathered atop Bunker Hill to dedicate the new headquarters of the Department of Water and Power, a 17-story, $31-million structure still recognized as a Downtown gem.

Housing 3,200 employees, the headquarters replaced offices in 11 buildings scattered across Downtown. Along with consolidation, the building also offered a healthy dose of high-technology. It was designed to be heated without the use of a boiler, and the pool that surrounds the structure played a part in the air conditioning system.

The department had acquired the land a decade earlier in a swap with the county. Excavation and grading work started in June of 1961. Architect Albert C. Martin designed the structure.

At the dedication, the eight fountains ringing the building were turned on by Elizabeth Scattergood and Rose Mulholland, daughters of the two men who were DWP's first chief engineers. According to the L.A. Times' writeup from the event, they did so using the same telegraph key that had been used to signal for power to be delivered from the Hoover Dam in 1936.

As usual, a time-capsule was installed in the corner of the structure. According to an August 5, 1965, piece by the L.A. Times' Matt Weinstock, the capsule includes a $100 check written by DWP General Manager Samuel B. Nelson to the "General Manager DWP in the year 2065" to be used "for underprivileged people from Mars."

Despite the building's acclaim, there's a chance it may not be the city's much longer. DWP Interim General Manager Austin Beutner last week proposed selling off the structure and leasing it back as part of a plan to prevent rate hikes.

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