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The story of the construction of the Hoover Dam

One of the most famous man-made constructions is the massive Hoover Dam that was built in the 1930s. At the time of construction, it became the biggest dam in the world and took over 20,000 men to build it. Here is a brief story of the dam's construction.


The dam was constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation after decades of proposals dedicated to controlling flooding and providing water for the farms in the Southern California region. The commission for finding a way of fairly distributing the water from the Colorado River to all the seven basin states was granted to the then-Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover. The Colorado River Compact The results of Hoover's work was the Colorado River Compact that was drawn up in 1922. This compact led to the final authorisation of the project and design work on the dam could finally begin. The dam was originally named the Boulder Dam during construction, only being renamed the Hoover Dam some years later.

The design

The original designs, drafted by the Bureau of Reclamation, were specifically function-orientated. While the design was embellished with Gothic-style balustrade and statues, it was nonetheless heavily criticised for lacking a certain modernity. Gordon B Kaufman Therefore, a Los Angeles-based architect, Gordon B Kaufman, was brought in to redesign the entire construction. Kaufman ended up by designing a significantly more streamlined version that was based on an Art Deco-style design.

Construction consortium

The bid to win the construction rights was finally won by a consortium of six construction contractors in 1931. They were then given a total of seven years in which to complete the construction. However, due to the introduction of new technology such as lighting which allowed for 24-hour building work to be carried out, the dam was finished over two years ahead of schedule.

The construction begins

Before work on the dam could begin, the river had to be diverted from the work site. This was done by cutting four division tunnels into the canyon walls. This took one year to complete after which the river was directed through the tunnels allowing for work on the dam to begin. The dam was constructed using interlocking blocks and concrete was then poured into each section by massive buckets which were suspended on cables. Endnote President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the dam open on 30 September 1935. In the 1960s, proposals were made to build the Hoover Dam Bypass and bridge.

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