Today in History: Hoover Dam is completed

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On this day 80 years ago, a crowd of 20,000 people gathered in Nevada to watch President Franklin Delano Roosevelt commemorate the completion of the Hoover Dam.



The idea for a multipurpose dam had been in motion since the early 20th century, but was not approved by Congress until 1928. The Boulder Canyon Project outlined a dam built in Black Canyon on the border of Nevada and Arizona.

With people concerned over the $165 million price tag for the project, it was decided that the dam would control floods, provide irrigation water and produce and sell hydroelectric power to recover its costs.

Secretary of Commerce (and soon-to-be president) Herbert Hoover brokered the controversial deal in 1922, but due to legal finagling, it was not authorized until outgoing president Calvin Coolidge signed off on the Boulder Canyon Project in 1928. It was announced that because of Hoover's passion towards the project, the dam would be named after him.

As construction began in 1931, so did the Great Depression. Workers flocked to Boulder City for a chance to work on the project.

The work that ensued was toiling and treacherous, with thousands of crews burning the midnight oil under dangerous conditions that included working in carbon monoxide-choked tunnels and dangling from hundreds of feet high in canyon walls.

The tight time frame caused even more friction and peril and by the time the project was finished in 1936, over 100 workers had died in the process.

The Hoover Dam was the largest dam and reservoir in the world at the time of completion. Although it has since been replaced by multiple others, the national landmark is still home to more than one million tourists a year and its reservoir stores enough water in Lake Mead to irrigate two million acres of land.


See some photos from the construction of the Hoover Dam below:
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Today in History: Hoover Dam is completed
Secretary Ray Lyman Wilbur drives the last spike into the railroad leading from Las Vegas, Nevada to the site of the Hoover Dam - better known as the Boulder Dam, Sept. 19, 1930. The spike, made of silver, signalized actual beginning of construction on the $165,000,000 project. Left to right: Congressman William Eaton, of Colorado; Senator Key Pittman, Nevada; Secretary Wilbur, and left Senator Samuel Shortridge. (AP Photo)
An inspection party near the proposed site of the Hoover Dam (aka Boulder Dam) in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, circa 1928. (Photo by Keystone/FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The Hoover Dam, formerly known as the Boulder Dam, in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the states of Arizona and Nevada, early to mid 20th century. (Photo by Visual Studies Workshop/Getty Images)
1935: Aerial view of the construction of the Boulder Dam, renamed the Hoover Dam in 1947, shortly before its completion, Nevada. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
An aerial view of Hoover Dam during the construction at the Nevada, Arizona border. Circa 1935. (Photo by Hirz/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
circa 1935: An 82,500 kilovolt-ampere rotor is lowered into place on the Arizona wing of the Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam) during its construction. (Photo by Atlas/Getty Images)
Four generators, each of 82,500 kilovolt ampere capacity, in the Nevada wing of the Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam) during its construction, circa 1935. (Photo by Atlas/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
The Boulder Dam on the Arizona - Nevada border (first named Hoover Dam in 1931 when work commenced and again renamed the Hoover Dam in 1947). It harnessed water from the Colorado River for use in power generation. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 01: Four Land Highway On The Hoover Dam At Colorado River In Usa On October 1939 (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
The Intake towers of Boulder Dam (later known as the Hoover Dam) are reflected like giant candles by the rising waters of Lake Meade, May 17, 1940. The border of Arizona and Nevada falls between the two paired towers (the Arizona side in the fore). (Photo by PhotoQuest/Getty Images)
More than 700 feet over the Colorado River bed, workers put the finishing touches on the Hoover Dam on Aug. 12, 1931. The dam was built by the Bureau of Reclamation, Department of the Interior. (AP Photo)
A steel bucket holding eight cubic yards dumps the first load of concrete for the foundation of the Hoover Dam on the floor of Black Canyon in Boulder City, Nev., June 9, 1933. The concrete form is three-sided as the fourth wall will be formed by the live rock of the Arizona reef for the dam. (AP Photo)
This aerial view shows a crest of the Hoover Dam, aka Boulder Dam, showing the highway leading across it on July 16, 1935. The road, soon to be opened to the public, will provide an easy route between Las Vegas, Nev., and Kingman, Arizona. The intake towers jut up on the other side of the dam in Boulder City, Nevada. (AP Photo)
This is an aerial view of the Hoover Dam of the Boulder Canyon project situated in Black Canyon on the Colorado River, on the border of the states of Nevada and Arizona, in Boulder City, Nev., March 13, 1936. A portion of the Mead Lake is shown behind the 731-foot high concrete structure. Water from the lake flows at the ratio of several thousand gallons per second from outlet valves on the Arizona side, below dam. Intake towers are behind the dam on each side. (AP Photo)
Hover Dam, May 11, 1953. (AP Photo)
Top of Hoover Dam towers almost 600 feet above as the Rhythmettes, precision dancing group from nearby Las Vegas, Nevada High School; kick high during routine on what must be the worldâs largest âstageâ June 8, 1957. The girls have performed in many U.S. cities since formation of Rhythmettes. Six years ago. (AP Photo/V)
View of a section of the Boulder hydroelectric power dam, later renamed the Hoover Dam, Colorado, 1942. (Photo by Ansel Adams/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Powerful floodlights light up Boulder Dam for the observance of its tenth anniversary of power production, Arizona, Nevada, October 23, 1946. The name was changed to Hoover Dam in 1947. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
circa 1947: The top of the Hoover Dam, formerly known as Boulder Dam, on the Nevada - Arizona border and on the Colorado river. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
The Hoover (Boulder) Dam and Arizona Spillway in Lake Mead in Nevada, 1943. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 24: Las Vegas - Hoover Dam - 1957. Originally called Boulder Dam. In the Black Canyon on the Colorado River, on the border of Arizona and Nevada. Lake Mead and penstock towers in the foreground. (Photo by Bob D'Olivo/The Enthusiast Network/Getty Images)
Hoover dam aerial view, Colorado, 1975. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
Nevada, Hoover Dam, . (Photo by Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)
HOOVER DAM, NV - OCTOBER 16: The face of the Hoover Dam is seen October 16, 2003 in Nevada. (Photo by Bryan Haraway/Getty Images)
Millions of gallons of water gush from bypass tunnels near Hoover Dam, Thurdsay, Feb., 26, 2004, in Nevada, as part of a Bureau of Reclamation safety test. (AP Photo/Joe Cavaretta)
LAKE MEAD NRA, AZ - JULY 30: The Arizona Intake Towers at the Hoover Dam July 30, 2007 in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona. The white 'bathtub ring' on the rocks is from mineral deposits left by higher levels of water. A seven-year drought and increased water demand spurred by explosive population growth in the Southwest has caused the water level at Lake Mead, which supplies water to Las Vegas, Arizona and Southern California, to drop over 100 feet to its lowest level since the 1960s. The National Park Service has been forced to close or extend boat launch ramps, and move entire marinas to try to keep up with the receding water levels. Because the water at the lake, the largest man-made reservoir in North America, isn't being replenished as fast as it's being used, water managers are now working to come up with plans to combat the effects of continued population growth, drought and a dwindling supply of water from the Colorado River due to climate change. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAKE MEAD NRA, AZ - JULY 30: The Arizona Intake Towers (L) and Nevada Intake Towers on the upstream side of the Hoover Dam on July 30, 2007 in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona. A seven year drought and increased water demand spurred by explosive population growth in the Southwest has caused the water level at Lake Mead, which supplies water to Las Vegas, Arizona and Southern California, to drop over 100 feet to its lowest level since the 1960s. The National Park Service has been forced to close or extend boat launch ramps, and move entire marinas to try to keep up with the receding water levels. Because the water at the lake, the largest man-made reservoir in North America, isn't being replenished as fast as it's being used, water managers are now working to come up with plans to combat the effects of continued population growth, drought and a dwindling supply of water from the Colorado River due to climate change. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAKE MEAD NRA, NV - AUGUST 19: The Hoover Dam is seen from the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, part of the Hoover Dam Bypass Project which is under construction, August 19, 2010 in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada. The 1,900-foot-long structure sits 890 feet above the Colorado River, about a quarter of a mile downstream from the Hoover Dam. The USD 240 million project to relieve vehicle traffic on the Hoover Dam began in 2003, and is scheduled to be open to traffic by November 2010. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
The Hoover Dam stands in Boulder City, Nevada, U.S., on Monday, March 24, 2014. Hoover Dam, operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River that impounds Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the U.S. by volume. Photographer: Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lake Mead stands in Boulder City, Nevada, U.S., on Monday, March 24, 2014. Hoover Dam, operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River that impounds Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the U.S. by volume. Photographer: Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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