Saturday, February 18, 2012

Water Began It All

This weekend is your last chance to see a small and fascinating exhibit at the Huntington Library and Gardens.

Water Began it All features meticulous paintings by Michael J. Hart. Mr. Hart's long history as Vice President and General Manager of the Sunny Slope Water Company got him interested in the San Gabriel Valley's long history with water. If you want to see what the land looked like before it was settled, Hart's detailed paintings give you a good idea.

There used to be a lot more water here.

One of Hart's inspirations is still visible on the property of the Sunny Slope Water Company. Turn north onto La Presa Drive from Huntington Drive. Within a block or so you'll see a stone marker by a fence on the west side of the street. Just beyond the fence--the eastern boundary of the water company's land--you'll see a stone dam built by Tongva Indians under the supervision of Joseph Chapman (a story in himself). I included a photo of the dam in an article I wrote for Patch a little over a year ago.

At first J and I thought the spurs pictured above were not everyday spurs, and were worn only for show. But the more I think about it the more I realize that's a 20th-Century concept. The Spanish who settled here in the 18th and 19th centuries didn't ride for show. They rode for a living. They conquered the Tongva and they conquered the water and to them, all of it was business.


Kalei's Best Friend said...

Thanks for that bit of history!. Its amazing what is found in the area we live in, isn't it? Those spurs are a work of art. I love the look of them.

Petrea Burchard said...

They're so gorgeous and intricate that at first we thought they couldn't be for everyday. But these guys didn't have a Rose Parade, you know?

Bellis said...

I wish the beautifully drawn and painted maps and old photos of the Mission and Tongva villagers could have a permanent home at the Huntington. It's fascinating to see what our area must have looked like when only the Tongva lived there. I'll go again this weekend to see if I can memorize more of the maps, which extend west and north into Pasadena,taking in the Arroyo Seco and Hahamongna. Hart spent years studying the lie of the land, put in a lot of legwork and located some early Spanish maps that show the creeks and the old dirt tracks. The original route from the Mission to the little Puebla that became Los Angeles (now East Mission Road) didn't go in a straight line, and Hart's map explains why: the route had to divert to cross creeks at the shallowest places. It's not something we think about nowadays, when the streams are dry, in ditches, or underground.

Prints of this beautiful map are for sale on Hart's website, but the vet and the dentist have taken all my money this month.

Petrea Burchard said...

Can you buy the maps at the Huntington too, Bellis? They're lovely, and I didn't get any good pictures of them, which is why I added links.

Latino Heritage said...

Love the angle of the photo. The juxtaposition of the folks reading and the spurs is just abut perfect.

I don't remember who the spurs belonged to, but it is possible that they were part of an outfit that was of a more dressy character. Some hacendados who lived during the "Californio" era were rather well to do and were known to have gold, instead of paper, inside the cascarones (confetti filled eggs).

As far as the conquering went - unfortunately folks coming from the south and from the east were involved in many landgrabs. Some still have mountains named for them. The Tongva had many groups that wanted the land lived on.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

oh man, I'm so glad you posted this

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks, Roberta (LH), we can always trust you for added details that enlighten corners unseen.

Guess what PA's doing this weekend?

Bellis said...

The Huntington gift shop only sold Hart's paintings, not the maps, but the main one will be in the History of San Marino when it's published. The Huntington also plan to put some of the things in the exhibit on their website one day.

Petrea Burchard said...

"History of San Marino" by Elizabeth Pomeroy, am I right? She was guest author here not long ago.