Councilmember Gil Cedillo and Blossom Plaza developer Forest City seem to have some crossed wires about whether or not a dig on the Chinatown site of the mixed-use development has uncovered pieces of the Zanja Madre ("Mother Ditch") aqueduct that carried water from the LA River to settlers in the Pueblo de los Angeles back in the 1800s, says the Downtown News, but you had us at Zanja Madre. Back in the pueblo days, water was "the most precious commodity in the community," writes LA Public Library map librarian Glen Creason in Los Angeles magazine, and the waterway, believed to have been built in 1781, made it possible for settlers to cook, clean, wash and irrigate crops was an "essential lifeline."
Starting in 1857, the aqueduct was also headed by a 40-foot-wide water wheel that a newly-approved art project on the LA River will echo. In the 1870s, a brick tunnel was added to encase the increasingly precious water, which once commanded the kingly sum of 50 cents a bucket. Today, there are known remains of the brick structure in the LA Historic Park; next to the marketplace fountain on Olvera Street there's a three-foot-wide strip of diagonal bricks butting up to a fountain that marks the location of part of the original Zanja, according to the WPA Guide.
· Cedillo, Developer Differ on Whether Zanja Madre Found at Blossom Plaza [DN]
· CityDig: Map No. 178: The Zanja Madre in 1868 [Los Angeles]
· Huge Water Wheel Might Be Renewed River's Iconic Public Art [Curbed LA]