Historian, Author Catherine Mulholland Donates Family Memorabilia,
Including Items of Her Grandfather, William Mulholland, to CSUN
(NORTHRIDGE, Calif., May 8, 2008) — Noted historian and author Catherine Mulholland, granddaughter of William Mulholland, the engineer who brought Owens Valley water to Los Angeles, has donated a collection of family memorabilia—including rare books, archival papers, photographs and music recordings—to Cal State Northridge.
The collection, which will be housed in CSUN’s Oviatt Library’s Urban Archives Center, offers rare insight into the Mulholland family’s day-to-day life on their San Fernando Valley ranch as well as William Mulholland’s tenure with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
"The Mulholland family papers are a superb addition to the library’s continually growing collection on the history of the San Fernando Valley," said Susan Curzon, dean of the University Library. "We have deeply valued Catherine’s friendship over the years, and we are honored to preserve her family’s history."
Mulholland, a longtime supporter of the university and its library as well as a former member of CSUN’s President’s Advisory Board, said Northridge seemed a logical place for her family’s collection.
"I hated to part with it but, on the other hand, I wanted it to have a good home. I couldn’t think of a better place than CSUN," Mulholland said.
Few families have had a larger impact on the development of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley than the Mulhollands. William Mulholland engineered what was then considered nearly impossible—bringing water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Owens Valley to the San Fernando Valley via an aqueduct.
Catherine Mulholland’s father and William’s eldest son, Perry, established and managed a 640-acre ranch for himself and his four siblings on land that his father purchased between 1914 and 1916 in the San Fernando Valley. Known as the Mulholland Orchard Company, the ranch remained in operation until 1965 and encompassed a large swath of land that included portions of what are now the communities of Northridge and Canoga Park.
Catherine Mulholland, author of "Calabasas Girls," "Owensmouth Baby: The Making of a San Fernando Valley Town" and "Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles," is a respected historian. Her family has lived in the area for four generations. Her maternal ancestors, the Ijams and Haas families, settled in Calabasas and the west San Fernando Valley in the late 1870s and 1880s.
Her gift to the Oviatt Library includes approximately 4,000 books from her own collection as well as those of her parents and her grandfather. Among the books are volumes that explore California’s history as well as books published in the 19th and 20th centuries, including fiction, biographies and works on jazz, poetry and history. Among the gems of the collection are a copy of Paul Frisi’s "Treatise on Rivers and Torrents," published in 1861 and often used by William Mulholland, and a copy of Harold Bell Wright’s "The Winning of Barbara Worth," presented by the author to William Mulholland "…with much gratitude for his kindness in the days when I was gathering material for this story."
In addition to the books, Catherine Mulholland’s gift includes the Mulholland family papers, which consists of drafts, typescripts and chapter revisions of her books; research files, including selected copies of her grandfather’s correspondence, report files and newspaper clippings during his time with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power; Catherine Mulholland’s speech files; correspondence, journals, legal documents and financial records from the Mulholland ranch; pamphlets, brochures, yearbooks and other materials from local schools, voluntary associations and organizations; early newspapers from the towns of Owensmouth and Reseda; and family photographs.
Mulholland also gave the library a classic piano and more than 300 jazz and classical 78s and LPs, many of which are out of print or available in few library collections. The jazz artists include Stan Kenton, Art Tatum, Charlie Mingus and Mary Lou Williams. The classical records include performances by Toscanini and Solti.
Included in her gift is a trove of designer dresses and gowns, in pristine condition, that her family members wore during the "Roaring Twenties."
Mulholland said she hopes her gift, particularly her treasured books and music, will provide researchers with some insight into what life was like for "regular" people living in the early days of the San Fernando Valley.
Robert Marshall, head archivist in the university’s Urban Archives Center and University Archives, said the Mulholland gift presented a "wonderful opportunity" for researchers to truly delve into the San Fernando Valley history.
"We already have had one researcher digging into the papers," Marshall said.
He said the library already houses a collection of historical papers from Andrae B. Nordskog, an early 20th century journalist who argued against William Mulholland’s efforts to bring Owens Valley water to Los Angeles.
"It is really great to see both collections of both families’ interpretations—Nordskog’s and Mulholland’s—residing side by side," Marshall said.