Water Temple rises up in an area with no other structures.

Pulgas Water Temple

Field review by the editors.

Redwood City, California

Scientists and doomsayers warn that in the future there will be wars over control of water. Scarcity of drinkable H2O around the globe will make it more precious than oil, or even gold.

So perhaps California was prescient when it created two grand structures of water worship -- the Pulgas Water Temple in Redwood City, and the Sunol Water Temple in a mountain town east across the San Francisco Bay.

The Pulgas Water Temple is a historic municipal water facility, an ornate pseudo-classical circular temple with columns. A passage from the Bible, chiseled around the top, reads: "I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people."

Give Waters.

It's like a water feature in a rich person's garden, only larger.

The water temple was originally built in 1934 (and revamped in 1938) as part of a massive project to bring water to San Francisco by damming up the Hetch Hetchy valley, 160 miles away in the Sierras (a pristine wilderness near Yosemite valley that John Muir loved). The city dreaded a repeat of the earthquake and fires of 1906, and long distance water transport seemed to be the solution. The project succeeded, to the horror of early conservationists.

The temple's design was by S.F. architect William Merchant, a tribute to Greek and Roman architecture and the aqueduct engineering that influenced the water transport system. Next to the temple is a large artificial reflecting pool, a popular spot for wedding photos.

Since 2004, the water that used to go to the water temple diverts to a treatment plant. Pulgas is a non-essential artifact -- at least, until we need to actively pray and sacrifice to the water gods.

Pulgas Water Temple

Address:
Canada St., Redwood City, CA
Directions:
I-280, exit at Hwy 92, head west towards the reservoir, south on Canada Rd.
Hours:
M-F 9-4, Sa-Su parking lot closed. (Call to verify)
Phone:
650-872-5900
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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November 23, 2014

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