San Francisco's 1906 earthquake and fire gave city leaders the impetus to build a dam and reservoir to provide reliable water to the city. They selected a controversial site on the Tuolumne River in the Hetch Hetchy Valley of Yosemite National Park. Congress passed the Raker Act in 1913, despite a battle with environmentalists, including John Muir. It authorized the building of a dam on the Tuolumne River and construction of an aqueduct to San Francisco, 168 miles away.
Groveland's “bust” period, brought on by a mining decline, changed to “boom” when it was chosen as construction headquarters for the project's Mountain Division. San Francisco built an administrative center where Laveroni Park is now. It had an office building, housing, railroad maintenance shops, and a hospital that treated everyone in the area.
Locals and newcomers found jobs laying track and doing maintenance work for the 68 mile railroad built to transport men, equipment, and supplies to the dam site. Some were employed as construction workers. Others provided transportation, housing, food, supplies and weekend diversions for the huge work force.
With the completion of O'Shaughnessy Dam in 1925, and the westward movement of construction of the aqueduct, San Francisco's headquarters in Groveland was no longer needed. In accordance with the Raker Act, all construction infrastructure and the railroad were completely dismantled by the early 1940s.
Groveland once again became a small town on the way to Yosemite and to an additional tourist destination, the Hetch Hetchy Valley
Hetch Hetchy Railroad Maintenance Yard 1922
(Photo, Nicolini Family Collection)