Local bridge helped bring back Verdugo Wash after destructive floods
|June 29, 2017 - A distinctive bridge across the Verdugo was built following the destructive floods of 1933 and 1934. Katherine Yamada tells the story of the channelization of the natural wash with a flood channel constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers.|
|Glendale News Press|
News that the bridge at the Kenilworth Avenue crossing had opened made Glendale News-Press headlines on Jan. 12, 1937.
It was the first of three all-steel, single-span bridges to be constructed across what was then called the “Arroyo Verdugo.”
The Kenilworth bridge held another honor: it was the first Vierendeel-designed bridge built in the western United States and one of only a few of its kind ever built in the country; although that type of design was widely used in Europe.
The bridge — named for its creator, a Belgian engineer — heralded the rebirth of the Verdugo Wash after the devastating floods of 1933 and 1934.
The not-quite-10-mile Verdugo Wash begins up in the Crescenta Valley area and flows into the Los Angeles River near Griffith Park.
Its entire path is within Glendale’s borders, according to the website livingnewdeal.org, which details public-works projects created during the Roosevelt administration.
Much of the wash was still in a natural state when heavy rains began on the last days of December 1933. The storm sent water and debris down the steep slopes of the San Gabriels, into Montrose and La Crescenta, through the Verdugo Woodlands and toward the river.
Because of the storm, electricity and telephone services were cut, so some residents along the wash were unaware of what was happening.
The flood took out most of the bridges, although some, like the wood bridge at the Glenoaks crossing, had abutments that diverted the water and protected some of the houses downstream. However, many homes and garages were flooded and lives were lost.
E.C. Eaton, the County Flood Control District’s chief engineer at the time, estimated that 600,000 cubic yards of debris came down in just 20 minutes. He called for the completion of a flood-control system.
A federal Flood Control Act was signed in 1936, and the Verdugo Flood Control Project came into being.
Several temporary bridges were installed after the flood, but traffic in the rapidly growing city must have been greatly impacted by the post-flood mess.
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers constructed the wash that we see today. A couple of construction photos are posted on the livingnewdeal.org website.
The Kenilworth bridge had been slated to open in late 1936, but Consolidated Steel Corp. lagged behind schedule. Then, after delivery, engineers discovered that one of the beams did not meet specifications and returned it.
A maritime strike created further delays; when the bridge finally opened in January, the guardrails for the two 5-foot-wide walkways that were to be installed on each side of the bridge were still in the hold of a ship at San Pedro. Temporary wooden railings were erected to protect pedestrians.
The other two Vierendeels opened soon after. The Glenoaks Boulevard Bridge, near the intersection of Glenoaks Boulevard and Ethel Avenue, was dedicated that same year, while the Geneva Street crossing opened in 1938.
The three bridges, all with identical construction, are historically significant and were placed on the Glendale Register in 1997, the same year the city created and adopted the Glendale Register of Historic Resources, according to information provided by Special Collections at the Glendale Central Library.
KATHERINE YAMADA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. or by mail at Verdugo Views, c/o Glendale News-Press, 202 W. First St., Second Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Please include your name, address and phone number.
Arroyo Seco Foundation, 570 W. Avenue 26 #450, Los Angeles, CA 90065-1011
PO Box 91622, Pasadena, CA 91109-1622 (323) 405-7326 email@example.com