Landscape Photography
of James L. Snyder

The Pulgas Water Temple
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The Pulgas Water Temple
Mamiya RZ67 Pro II camera, 50mm Mamiya SEKOR-Z f/4.5 W lens, polarizer, Fujicolor Reala film, 75 megapixels
All Images ©Copyright 2010 James L. Snyder. All Rights Reserved

The Pulgas Water Temple

CaƱada Road, Woodside, San Mateo County, CA, 3/1/2006

I made this photograph for a book a friend was writing that would document the enduring benefits of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal, which put millions of Americans back to work in the depths of the Great Depression. The New Deal left a vast legacy of public works - libraries, courthouses, bridges, roads, trails, murals, and much more - that are still serving America today. Eventually I realized my friend was working on a research project instead of a book! San Francisco built the Pulgas Water Temple as a monument to the engineering and construction that brings water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains more than 160 miles across California's central valley to the San Francisco peninsula. The Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct took 24 years to build and cost $102 million. The temple is located at the aqueduct's western terminus where the water is delivered into Upper Crystal Springs Reservoir. On October 28, 1934, the roar of Hetch Hetchy Valley mountain water greeted everyone gathered at Pulgas Water Temple to celebrate its arrival. With vivid memories of the fire that had raged unchecked after the Great Earthquake of 1906, the city rejoiced in its new secure and plentiful supply of high quality drinking water. In 1938 the original water temple was replaced with the current design seen here at a cost of $30,700 for the temple and substructure, and $16,000 for the nearby reflecting pool and landscaping. The inscription in the frieze expresses the city's joyful relief: "I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people" (biblical quote from book of Isaiah 43:20). Pulgas Water Temple was designed in the Beaux Arts style by Harry M. Michelsen, W. P. Day, and William G. Merchant. Their design features fluted columns and Corinthian capitals as a tribute to the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome, whose engineering methods were used to build the new gravity-driven tunnel system. Artist and master stone carver Albert Bernasconi brought the design to life. The temple is at an elevation of 302 feet above sea level and stands 39 feet 9 inches above the ground with ten columns and a diameter of 25 feet. It is made of reinforced concrete with cast stone column facing and ornamental work. Since 2004 water no longer flows through the temple, but is instead diverted to a nearby treatment plant. "Pulgas" is the Spanish and Portuguese word for "fleas", which were encountered by early Spanish explorers of this area.

The Pulgas Water Temple

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