Heart N Soul Pays Tribute to Victims of the St. Francis Dam

by | Feb 22, 2017 | Community

Green Valley, located about 15 minutes north of Copper Hill in Valencia, is home to the Heart N Soul, a café that does more than serve great food and drinks.  Heart N Soul dedicates its walls to tell the photographic story of California’s greatest engineering disaster.
Non-engineer William Mulholland – given free rein to build a 5-mile, 11-foot wide tunnel 285 feet underground – brought water from the northern Owens Valley to supply Los Angeles.  He also built the St. Francis Reservoir and Dam as part of that aqueduct system.  It restrained more than 12.4 billion gallons of water.
On the morning of March 12, 1928, a concerned dam-keeper alerted Mulholland to a leak.  Mulholland inspected and deemed the dam safe.  That night, just before midnight, the dam catastrophically failed.  Within seconds, a wave, at its outset about 14 stories high, carried thousands of tons of concrete and billions of gallons of water, traveling at about 18 mph and wiping out all in its path.  Turning west into the Santa Clara riverbed and taking more than 5 hours to reach the coast, the flood wave dumped its debris and many of its victims into the Pacific Ocean.
While the official death toll is 431, this does not include undocumented workers thought to have been in the flood’s path.  Thus, it’s been estimated that more than 600 people lost their lives that night.
The disaster resulted in laws requiring education and licensing for civil engineers.
A piece of dam that remained standing, called “the Tombstone” due to its uncanny resemblance, was dynamited.  For 88 years, no other memorial was ever erected at the site.  Finally, on July 5, 2016, the House passed a bill by Rep. Steve Knight to remedy that omission.
Meanwhile, however, the Heart N Soul, located minutes from the remains of the Tombstone, tells this heartbreaking story with a gallery of vintage photos.  Enjoy a delicious dining experience, while learning a little bit of history, too.

photo by The Los Angeles Times

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