The Pulgas water temple is located in Woodside, near the Crystal Springs Reservoir and one mile north of the Filoli estate. It was built in 1934 to celebrate the completion of the Hetch Hetchy pipeline, and represents the terminus of the pipeline. The Temple closely resembles an earlier structure, the 1910 Sunol Water Temple, designed by architect Willis Polk, who was himself inspired by the Roman Vesta Temple in Tivoli, built in the early first century.
All three temples are monuments to aquaducts.
The Pulgas Temple is also a monument to a grand project, bringing fresh water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains over 167 miles to the Bay area. The project included a major dam (O’Shaughnessy), tunnel, hydraulic plants, $100 million, and took 24 years to complete. The project began with the 1906 earthquake and fire, an alarmed populace, an act of Congress (the Raker Act), and public desire to rid itself of a hated private water system. It pitted John Muir and the Sierra Club against Progressive Mayor John Phelan and fire-scarred citizens. It ended with a dammed Tuolome River, a flooded Hetch Hetchy Valley, and a broken-hearted John Muir.
Etched on the Pulgas Temple is this quote from Isaiah:
“I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people,”
Interpretive boards warn against the nearby endangered pants, birds, and animals. Ironically they do not allude to the loss of habitat caused by the massive water project that ends at the Pulgas Temple.