An unidentified person climbs the "tombstone" — the section of the dam that remained standing after the dam broke March 12, 1928.
4x6-inch BW film transparency (larger than 4x5). Date, photographer and original purpose of photograph unknown.
To the consternation and embarrassment of Los Angeles water officials, the tombstone became a tourist attraction. In May 1929, fourteen months later,
the tombstone was finally dynamited into oblivion after an adventurous young man fell from the top of it to become the dam's final victim.
Construction on the 600-foot-long, 185-foot-high St. Francis Dam started in August 1924. With a 12.5-billion-gallon capacity, the reservoir began to fill with water on March 1, 1926. It was completed two months later.
At 11:57:30 p.m. on March 12, 1928, the dam failed, sending a 180-foot-high wall of water crashing down San Francisquito Canyon. An estimated 411 people lay dead by the time the floodwaters reached the Pacific Ocean south of Ventura 5½ hours later.
It was the second-worst disaster in California history, after the great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, in terms of lives lost — and America's worst civil engineering failure of the 20th Century.