New LADWP Historical Exhibit


The development of a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) Historical Exhibit in the Hammel Building on Olvera Street was approved on August 4th, 2015 by the Commissioners of LADWP and the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Monument Department (El Pueblo).

This new Exhibit will include the relocation of the existing History of Water Exhibit (which has been closed because it was not accessible to people with disabilities), expanded exhibits highlighting the role of the Department in the founding and development of Los Angeles, and present information on the sustainability efforts being undertaken by LADWP.

The Hammel Building which fronts on Olvera Street and also includes access to North Main Street is particularly suited for this exhibit because it contains an exposed portion of the Zanja Madre (the original water distribution system of Los Angeles).  It also has sufficient space to greatly expand the current displays to cover the historical roles of water and power in the development of the City of Los Angeles, as well as allowing for rotating exhibits focusing on current issues.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the agencies stipulates LADWP will provide up to $195,000 for capital improvements, design, installation, and on-going presentation of exhibits. El Pueblo will be responsible for coordinating the development of the exhibit; providing staffing consistent with all the other museums in El Pueblo; and performing the maintenance and operations of the site once the project is completed.

It is anticipated that the exhibit will open in about a year and that it will last about 10 years before major changes would need to be considered.

The Water and Power Associates will be looking at the possibility of augmenting the staff of Museum through providing docent services for the exhibit.


Hammel Building (future site of LADWP Historical Exhibit)



Hammel Building

(2014)#* - View showing the path of the Zanja Madre (identified by the ziz-zag enhancement of the brickwork) as it crosses Olvera Street and then runs under the Hammel Building (right), the future home of the LADWP Historical Exhibit.  


Historical Notes

Built in 1909, the Hammel Building was initially used as a machine shop. Originally owned by a Mexican vegetable farmer, the building was willed to the Hammels in the 1880s, but was not converted to the Hammel Building until twenty years later.

As Olvera Street was transformed into a Mexican market place in 1930, it was necessary to provide public access to the building from Olvera Street and staircases had to be constructed to the ground floor of the Hammel Building.  Small basements were excavated during the 1940s to provide additional shops for Olvera Street merchants.  Although the Main Street façade has not changed significantly, the Olvera Street façade has been altered and repaired over the years.



(2006)^^ – View looking northeast showing the Hammel Building from its Main Street side.  The building runs all the way through to Olvera Street and sits between the Italian American Museum on the left and the Pelanconi House to the right.    


Historical Notes

The Zanja Madre, the original water distribution system of Los Angeles, runs directly below the Hammel Building.



(2006)^^ – View showing the Hammel Building plaque on Main Street in El Pueblo.  


Historical Notes

The plaque reads:  The Hammel Building on Main Street was constructed in 1909.  Originally built as four light industrial shops with a partial basement storage area along Olvera Street, the building now fronts on Olvera Street and houses two ground level shops and two basement shops.  Marie Hammel, who built the Italian Hall next door in 1907, hired architects Hudson and Munsell to construct the building at a cost of $4,000.  In 1913, the Hammel Building passed to Mrs. Hammel’s daughter, Marie Hammel McLaughlin, who enlarged it on the Olvera Street Side.



Click HERE to see an enlarged detailed map of El Pueblo De Los Angeles Historical Monument showing the location of the new DWP Museum (Hammel Building) and path of the historic Zanja Madre.




Water Museum Updates

August 18, 2020:  Representatives from LADWP, Water and Power Associates, El Pueblo and the Natural History Museum met for a planning session on the future Water Exhibit (Museum) on Olvera Street.  The Natural History Museum, because of their expertise, will be working on the displays that will be housed in the Hammel Building on Olvera Street.  The meeting generated some great ideas about what stories the exhibition could tell.  Several more meetings will be required before the displays can be finalized….it’s a long process.


Museum Schedule



Museum Concept




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Credits and References

#* Redlands Sister City: Discover Olvera Street

^^ El Pueblo de Los Angeles

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