Thursday, October 18, 2012

William H. Code -- 1729 Whitley Ave. Hollywood

Born in Michigan in 1864, William Henry Code (1864-1951) attended the University of Michigan for special courses in engineering (1888-1890), and ended up in Cheyenne later that year working for the Union Pacific. The next year he became Assistant State Engineer for the brand-new state of Wyoming.

In 1892 a new offer appeared. In Arizona, Alexander Chandler (for whom Chandler, Arizona is named, and who had previously lived in Michigan), convinced Dexter Ferry and C. C. Bowen (both of Ferry Seed Co. fame) to invest in a new canal company which would provide irrigation water to the southern half of the Phoenix Salt River valley. William was named as engineer, and worked for the Consolidated Canal System for the next ten years. His irrigation experience, knowledge and political connections came together in 1902 when he was named Irrigation Engineer for the Office of Indian Affairs. At the same time, the Reclamation Act of 1902 had passed in Congress, which now provided federal largesse for irrigation projects on federal land throughout the western U.S.

W. H. in 1909
An immediate need lay in the Gila River valley, where the Pima tribe, consisting of 800-1000 people, had long used the waters of the lower Gila to irrigate their fields. Over the preceding decade, however, settlers upstream in the Casa Grande area, had ignored water rights for those downstream, siphoning off water until there was no longer enough to support the Pima. As Irrigation Engineer, William was to represent the various western tribes for dealings with agencies of the federal government. In 1899, the San Carlos dam site on the Gila had been surveyed and appeared suitable, but land speculators and settlers in the Phoenix area were much more organized. First the Reclamation act was altered to include irrigation to private lands. Then with this change now in hand, Phoenicians backed a dam for the Salt River instead, at the confluence of the Salt and Tonto Creek. The Pimas at first were to be recipients of water from a canal at the new dam, but Code argued instead for electric well pumps along the Gila near Sacaton.  He stated that he believed Pima water rights could not be restored and using pumps would be the only reliable source for water. What he did not say is that the canal planned to be built from Roosevelt Dam was charted along a higher elevation than needed for the Pima, but would provide ample water for a large acreage abutting Alexander Chandler's 18,000 acre ranch. The Pima feared the pumps would provide alkaline water, proving unsuitable. You can guess the outcome.

In 1905 Code was promoted to Chief Irrigation Engineer for the Office of Indian Affairs, formalizing a position he already held. The job's residence was to be in Los Angeles, so William and wife Martha moved to Hollywood, purchasing a new residence at 1729 Whitley Ave. The house was on a very large lot of approximately 120 ft. by 185 ft. which no doubt played into the house's future. It was a large house for someone with no children, a trait he shared with Alexander Chandler. Martha no doubt loved being in California, as she is often mentioned in society blue-books of the era. And besides his government position, Code also remained involved in Arizona business, notably as a vice-president of Mesa City Bank.

The Code Residence in 1909
William probably was thinking ahead when he had his name added to Burdette's book in 1910, as we are about to see.  The next year was the zenith for his Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) position, with a March full-page article in the San Francisco Call, extolling the munificence of the federal government for the "Red Man", led by William. In an excerpt regarding "Rebuilding Pima Civilization".

"Already eight of these pumping plants have been installed and are now in operation. They will furnish an abundance of water eight thousand acres of land, and this alone is enough to keep the tribe prosperous. But so great was the success of the first of these plants that the government has decided to put in nearly as many more. This will supply water to some fourteen thousand acres and the despised Pimas will become landed gentlemen to be envied by farmers the country through."
But the article was far off the mark. By summer the next year it had gotten so bad, Congress convened hearings on the debacle. Being deposed in this excerpt below was Herbert Marten, Financial Clerk of the Pima Indian Agency:

"Mr. Marten. The point is that the reservoir [Roosevelt Dam] which is now constructed was constructed at an enormous expense, and by selling electricity they hope to be able to reimburse themselves more or less for that expenditure. The Government has spent or contracted to spend, $500,000 in buying electricity, and, as I have said, the white farmers have water for the money they pay. Now, there are two points to the question; the first is that water is reserved for idle speculative lands, and the other one is that not only is the water reserved, but $500,000 is gathered in for that electricity bought in place of water.

Senator Curtis. You mean that the Government is using the electricity to pump the water out of the wells, instead of getting it from the reservoir?

Mr. Marten. That is the point.

Senator Curtis. What Senator Page wanted to know, as I understood his question, and which I do not think you did, is: Why did the Government put down those wells if it was going to be such an expensive and such a useless proposition?

Mr. Marten. They should never have done it.

Senator Curtis. Why did they do it--that is the point?

Mr. Marten. I think all the evidence seems to show that the reason why it was done was that these idle speculative arid lands which were not supplied with water should have the water that ought to have gone to the Indians.
I can give you a case in point. There is a large estate of 18,000 acres of land bordering on the Indian reservation, with nothing to divide the two but an imaginary line run by the surveyors. There is evidence to show that those 18,000 acres of public land have been illegally secured from the Government, and the water which should be running over the Indian lands, and which used to overflow this land from a canal in times of high water is now running on this 18,000 acre tract of speculative land.
Senator Page. It has been diverted wrongfully?

Mr. Marten. It has been diverted in place of being put on the Indian lands.

Senator Curtis. It is appropriated by the other lands?

Mr. Marten. Yes, sir.

Senator Curtis. How many wells have been put down by the Government?

Mr. Marten. Ten.

Senator Curtis. How much have they cost?

Mr. Marten. The cost of those wells is about $900,000 at the present time, including contracted indebtedness.

Senator Curtis. How many of them are working?

Mr. Marten. Seven.

Senator Curtis. Satisfactorily, I mean.

Mr. Marten. Well, not all of the seven are working satisfactorily.

Senator Curtis. Three, is it not?

Mr. Marten. There are three or four working satisfactorily; seven are working more or less satisfactorily.

Senator Curtis. How many acres are being irrigated by those seven wells or from the seven wells?

Mr. Marten. There can be about 4,200 acres irrigated.


Senator Owen. Under whose direction was that done?

Mr. Marten. I believe it was done chiefly under the direction of the former chief engineer of the Indian service, Mr. William H. Code, in connection with the Reclamation Service. Mr. Code has now resigned from the service.

Senator Owen. That is rather an expensive service.

Mr. S. M. Brosius (agent of the Indian Rights Association). I should like to say that Mr. Code resigned from the service after there had been quite an exposition of the transactions in the irrigation matters last summer."
 But the hearings did not seem to damage Code's reputation.  He along with two others formed Quinton, Code, and Hill civil engineering consultants, in late 1911 before the hearings. Code remained an active part of the business well into the 1930's.

A 1924 ad for Code's consulting business
(UCLA Annual)
The Codes moved from Whitley Ave. by 1917 to 7231 Hillside, where they remained until their deaths in 1951. After a short ownership change the Whitley Ave. property was purchased by a Nebraska couple with the owner intending to build "bungalows" on the lot, no doubt following the trend next door to the south, which was filled with bungalows in 1919 as seen below.

Whitley Avenue in 1919
(courtesy of Sanborn Maps)

And by the mid 1920's the house is gone from the directories.  Bungalows were installed on the back half of the property. Known as "Corte Riviera", they are still there today.  And in the 1940's, the apartments in the front half were built.

Looking west across the old 1729 Whitley property
(courtesy of Google maps)
And the federal government in the 1920's built Coolidge dam, with the hope of providing reservoir water to the Pima. Control by the BIA of water usage led to a loss of native crop farming skills as Pimas were now required to plant "cash" crops. 

A 2004 settlement between the government and the Pima will hopefully bring the issue to final resolution.

Additional Info
The Native American Water Rights Project
A history on Gila River Water

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