A 4-foot-diameter brick pipe discovered recently underneath a former restaurant by workers excavating a site was once part of the so-called Mother Ditch that carried water from the L.A. River to the city.
The antiquity was uncovered April 10 as workers were beginning construction on the Blossom Plaza, a five-story mixed-use apartment and storefront project on North Broadway.
About 73 feet of the Mother Ditch has been exposed at the project site.
When first created in 1781, the Mother Ditch, or Zanja Madre, was an open ditch fed by a small dam built in the river, the city's main water source at the time.
Decades later, a 40-foot water wheel was constructed to increase the ditch's gravitational flow to a brick reservoir near Olvera Street. From there the network of pipes fanned out, carrying water to homes and to fields for irrigation.
Worried about public health, officials enclosed the Zanja Madre in 1877. It was finally abandoned in 1904. Bits and pieces of the old water system have surfaced over the years.
City Councilman Gilbert Cedillo, who represents the Chinatown area, said a 40-foot section of the Zanja Madre will be removed Saturday from the Blossom Plaza site and preserved for future display.
The plan is to exhibit sections of the Mother Ditch at the Blossom Plaza, the Los Angeles Historic State Park and at Metabolic Studios' planned Los Angeles River Water Wheel replica project, he said.
Cedillo said the preservation of the Zanja Madre section is significant because it "served as the lifeline to the survival and early development of Los Angeles."
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