Hoover Dam Is the Name and It Will Never Look the Same

This Beautiful View of Hoover Dam Is Gone Forever

View of Hoover Dam from Behind Still Spectacular Even with Bridge

On This Date In History: This is a tale filled with politics so it’s confusing. Back in 1902, Arthur Powell Davis, an engineer with the Bureau of Reclamation, came up with an idea for a dam along the Colorado River at a place called Boulder Canyon.  Herbert Hoover, an engineer by education himself, was Secretary of Commerce in 1921 and he made it a priority to support a high dam at Boulder Canyon. Plans were set for the project to be begun in 1922. Well, there was Congress to contend with and water rights and states rights…lots of politicians. So the project didn’t get started until This Date in 1930. By that time, coincidentally, Herbert Hoover was the 31st President. It was also the beginning of the Great Depression and Hoover wanted to be re-elected. While work started on July 7, the official ceremony commemorating the beginning wasn’t until September when Hoover’s Secretary of the Interior, Ray Wilbur, declared the project would be known as the Hoover Dam. It was appropriate since Hoover had been instrumental over the years in getting the project going. But, Hoover also wanted the project to bear his name to remind people of all the jobs he had created. It didn’t work. Hoover lost badly to Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1932 election.

Frank Didn't Think Herb Deserved a Dam Named For Hiim

Frank Didn't Think Herb Deserved a Dam Named For Hiim

As the project was getting started, it was determined that geologically it was better suited down the river in Black Canyon. Nevertheless, it was still called the Boulder Canyon Project and on May 8, 1933, Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes, father of the current Democrat politicial figure and lobbyist Harold M. Ickes) declared that the name of the project would no longer be known as Hoover Dam, but instead Boulder Dam.  Ickes claimed that Wilbur was wrong in naming the dam for President Hoover.  

Construction of the Hoover Dam Was a Monumental Task But Perhaps Not as Difficult as Settling on a Name

FDR had been in office for a few months and I suppose that erasing any mention of Hoover perhaps was high on the priority list of helping the US to be fearless against “fear itself.”   Then again, maybe the former Teddy Roosevelt “Bull Moose”  Republican Ickes simply did not like Hoover.  Ickes claimed that the legislationfor the project had been approved during the Coolidge administration and therefore linking it to Hoover was no good.  It did not seem to matter to Ickes that the original sight had been changed from Boulder Canyon to  Black Canyon.   Even though Ickes did some token work to allow African American laborers to live in Boulder City, NV, I doubt that “Black Dam” would have been acceptable, though “Black Canyon Dam” may have passed muster.  But, Ickes explained that   “The name Boulder Dam is a fine, rugged, and individual name. The men who pioneered this project knew it by this name.”   Today, the Department of the Interior says that the name was never officially changed from Hoover Dam.   I guess Mr. Ickes overstepped his authority.

Wouldn't a Bridge Spoil a Beautiful View of a Magnificent Structure?

Nevertheless,  I suppose  that even though it supposedly wasn’t officially called Boulder Dam,  in 1947, President Harry Truman  found it necessary to sign a resolution of the Congress changing the name back to Hoover Dam….but the town built for all of the workers is still Boulder City. When I was a kid we stayed in a motel in Boulder City that looked like it was from the set of National Lampoon’s Vacation. Christie Brinkley didn’t show up though.  Here’s a link to all sorts of stuff about Hoover Dam including a bunch of photos from the 1930’s. Notice that it is called the Boulder Dam Project..AKA Hoover Dam. There are some things of which some people will not let go, Congressional resolution and Presidential signature or not!  The photos show just how majestic and beautiful the dam really is but now that has changed. 

Artist's Vision of What the Completed Bridge Will Look Like

The traffic over  the bridge I suppose just got too congested because they went and built a new bridge to bypass the dam and they built it right in front of the huge structure.  That’s progress for you and necessity but the image of the dam with the Hoover Dam Bypass is just is not the same anymore.   Nevertheless, the bridge is pretty cool and is supposedly on schedule for a fall 2010 opening.  The bridge will be called the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge in honor of a popular Nevada Governor Mike O’Callaghan and NFL star and war hero Pat Tillman who died tragically in Afghanistan.  People in Las Vegas are happy because it will shorten the drive to Phoenix and make it more safe.  And while it is extremely appropriate to name it in the honor of Pat Tillman, I still wish they would have put it somewhere else.  But again, that’s progress.  I suppose that there were people who think that the dam itself, which was a sign of progress, spoiled the natural beauty of Black Canyon.

Weather Bottom Line:  The heat will continue for another couple of days but by Friday, a frontal boundary will be sagging our way.  While it is not entirely clear exactly how much rain we will get, the front’s approach will give us the most substantial risk for rain in several days.  The front will move through and bring some relief but don’t look for a repeat of the nice weather we had late last week with the last front.  It will be drier and highs over the weekend will be in the upper 80’s and overnight lows in the upper 60’s.  Perhaps more significantly is that this front may represent at least a short term change in the long wave pattern such that the ridge that has been dominating the east limiting rain and elevating temperatures may be broken down.  That should allow for a better chance for scattered showers than we have seen and the edge removed from the excessive heat.  It’s still going to be hot…just maybe not quite as hot and humid as it has been.


5 Responses


  2. This article from July 20, 2010 claims its on schedule to be opened in November 2010 http://kingmandailyminer.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=797&ArticleID=39140

  3. Hi, I would like to use one of the photos of the Hoover Dam (shown above) at an internal corporate meeting. Would you please let me know how to obtain permission to use it (or how to contact the holder of the copyright)?

    thanks a lot!

  4. If you check some of the links in the article, you can find some of them.

  5. i really like it hoover dam.

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