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Report by Galen Hunter

The Story Begins With Water

[ Page updated - April 27, 2020 ]

This report is about the meaning of some handwritten text on an 1898 map. The map is titled "Map of Lumber Yard and Salt Lake in the Town of Redondo Beach, Los Angeles Co. California." (Figure 1) and the title infomation includes who created the map "George Tod, Jr." and when it was created "April 1898". George Tod, Jr. (Figure 2) was the Civil Engineer who laid out the Townsite of Redondo Beach. The specific text discussed in this report is located on the upper left corner of the map and the text reads "P.L & P. Co 1.63 Acres" (Figure 3). You will notice a drawing is associated with this text. The drawing is the shape of a house and the drawing has the text "Pump House" written inside it.

[Figure 1 - Title portion of map: "Map of Lumber Yard and Salt Lake in the Town of Redondo Beach, Los Angeles Co. California."]

[Figure 2 - Photograph of George Tod, Jr.]

[Figure 3 - Upper left portion of map: "Map of Lumber Yard and Salt Lake in the Town of Redondo Beach, Los Angeles Co. California."]

The "P.L & P. Co" text is an abbreviation of Pacific Light & Power Company. In 1902, Henry Huntington incorporated the Pacific Light & Power Company. Then a few years later, Huntington built a steam power plant in Redondo Beach -- right there across the other side of the salt lake from the Pump House, on the sand dune, next to the ocean. A vital aspect of the Redondo Steam Plant plant operation was to use the fresh water wells on the property as boiler feed water. The "Pump House" text on Tod's 1898 map is short for the fresh water pumping station that pumped the water from the wells to the power plant boiler feed (Figure 4). At least a million gallons a day of water was extracted for years by the Pacific Light & Power Company from these wells until the water in the ground was depleted and seawater began to intrude into the land. However, this overpumping goes back further in time as this same fresh water pumping station was constructed in 1888 by the Redondo Beach Company. This is the land company whose original idea was to create a seaside watering place named the Townsite of Redondo Beach (Figure 5). The land company started by pumping out one half million gallons a day of fresh water which was promptly increased to one million gallons a day. Before the Redondo Beach Company existed, there is even earlier historical documentation (newspaper reports) mentioning fresh water on the site associated with the first Americans occupying the place in 1854 to extract salt from the lake water (Figure 6).

[Figure 4 - 1911 photograph of the Pacific Light & Power Company - Redondo Steam Plant storeroom and freshwater pump plant, with markup added. From the Huntington Digital Library, this URL for metadata and zoom-in capability:]

[Figure 5 - 1893 U.S. Coast Survey T-Sheet, detail salt lake, freshwater pumping station ]

[Figure 6 - 1854 Aug 22, Daily Alta California, Page 2, article titled "Laguna De La Salina"]

In conclusion, while it is possible someone after 1898 could have added the text "P.L & P. Co" to the George Tod, Jr. map, a basic check of the who, what, where and when of the situation indicates it is entirely feasible this text was actually written in 1898. In any case, the meaning of this text on the 1898 Tod Map is not so remarkable. For instance, say you were going to create a steam power plant back then to produce electricity. To get the steam you need a good fresh water supply. So, it makes sense to locate your power plant where there is _historically_ a good fresh water supply and then control that water supply early -- meaning at the beginning of your plans to incorporate a company and build the plant there. So, all the previously published stories about the Redondo Power Plants stating beginning with Henry Huntington and after 1900, etc. are just doing corporate framing of the past. The story begins with water. The story ends with water.