This Day in History - Friday, September 20, 1963: Scrivener Dam is completed in order to make Lake Burley Griffin, a central feature of Canberra, Australia's capital.
The competition to design Australia's new capital city, Canberra, was won in 1911 by American architect Walter Burley Griffin. After winning the competition to design Australia's national capital, he and his wife moved to Australia, where Griffin was appointed as the Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction.
As the Molonglo River flowed through the proposed site of Canberra, Burley Griffin's design included an artificial lake in the city's heart. The design allowed for a central circular basin, with irregularly shaped eastern and western lakes either side. Due to disputes with Australian authorities, Burley Griffin left Australia in 1920 with much of his vision for the city not yet realised. Thus, work on the lake only began in 1958 when engineers first began to investigate the hydrology and structural requirements needed to dam the Molonglo in order to construct the lake.
Excavation of the floodplain for the lake began in 1960. The dam to hold back the waters was named Scrivener Dam after Charles Scrivener, the man who surveyed several sites in New South Wales to select the site for the Australian Capital Territory and Canberra. The valves to complete Scrivener Dam were closed on 20 September 1963 by Interior Minister Gordon Freeth but, due to a drought, the lake only reached its planned level at the end of April the following year