Sparkletts in 2006.
A 1934 Land Use Survey shows two smaller water companies in the old Cienega del Garvanza region. (USC Digital Archives)
Though the City of Los Angeles is well known for its long distance antics for obtaining water, Northeast Los Angeles was historically the site of many bottling companies.
Bert Fraleigh wrote of the 1930s: "We had Los Angeles city water piped from a small covered reservoir on top of the South Hills behind Rock Glen Avenue. I think they filled the reservoir from the LA Aqueduct... The water wasn't very good, so almost every family subscribed to the waterman who came by weekly delivering allegedly distilled water in blue glass five gallon bottles..."
The following are just a few stories about our local bottled water...
In August 1925, a new water company announced they would temporarily give unlimited quantities of their product to anyone who brought their own container to fill. This promotional blitz, coinciding with the heat of summer, created instant demand for Sparkletts.
Clever marketing magically transformed the water of the Cienega del Garvanza into "not only a pure water, but a "live" water" It was advertised to be 85.4% saturated with Oxygen-- the cause of its special sparkle. The public was invited to inspect the company's modern standards of hygiene by watching the bottling process in person. In the early days, the company spent one third of its income on advertising, possibly most prominently in local papers. Promotion of Sparkletts was so successful that within a couple months of the opening, the Highland Park News Herald reported "demand for Sparkletts now is so large that the concern has difficulty in filling it."
In 1929 Sparkletts announced the construction of a new plant built in a "Moorish" style by Richard D. King, to symbolize an oasis. The new facilities increased maximum capacity to 125,000 g/day.
Despite the company's ambitions, Sparkletts kept close ties to the Eagle Rock community. In the 1930s the company hosted local art exhibits on its premises as well as meetings of organizations such as the Sierra Club and the California Association of Sanitarians. Representatives of Sparkletts served on the Eagle Rock "Y" board, and the company supplied water to local events. The company hired Eagle Rock youth such as Bert Fraleigh and Powell Greenland to move boxes or inspect soda during the summer.
In the mid 30s, at least three distributors of bottled water besides Sparkletts operated out of the old Cienega del Garvanza area.
It is said that Sparkletts is now primarily selling treated tap water, i.e., water imported from Northern California, the Owens Valley and the Colorado River.
Sparkletts was sold to Foremost Dairies in 1964, which was in turn acquired by MacKesson-Roberts, based in San Francisco. More recently, the company was bought by Danone, and then, by DS Waters. The famed Moorish building in the neighborhood is now closed, due to damage from the 1994 Northridge earthquake. To order the water sold by the company that began in our midst, one must go through "water.com". Phone calls to inquire further into our local history, bounce endlessly around DS Waters' corporate offices in Georgia.