City of Angels: Essential Facts About Los Angeles

Los Angeles illuminated against sky at night. (Paul Meneshian/EyeEm/Getty)

Origins Of Angels

Los Angeles was officially founded on September 4, 1781, though it was then known as El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles, which translates to "The Town of Our Lady the Queen of Angels." It was originally a ranching town created in the era of Spanish colonization. Visitors can still take a peek at the city's history on its oldest road, Olvera Street, which dates back to the 1780s. The California dream was sold early and hard, with advertisements from the 1800s promising sunshine, food, and prosperity to anyone brave enough to travel west. The Gold Rush of the 1850s didn't hurt California's population growth, either. L.A. became an incorporated municipality on April 4, 1850 and, by the end of the century, swelled from just 11 families to a city of more than 50,000.

It's A Dry Heat

But how were all these people expected to live, let alone grow crops, in what is dangerously close to desert conditions? Enter William Mulholland, the man whose dream for the City of Angels was so big, he stole an entire lake for it. From 1907 to 1913, Mulholland built an aqueduct which essentially took all of the water from Owens Lake, a whopping 175 miles away in the Sierra Nevada, to the reservoirs of Los Angeles. The ranchers around Owens Lake obviously put up a fight, but thanks to some devious tricks on Mulholland's part, the city grew beyond what the natural resources of the basin could have ever provided naturally, for better or worse.