The Incredible Story of the Watts Towers
Hidden in an eastern part of the city of Los Angeles lies a little-known enormous treasure of art — The Watts Towers. The highest tower contains the longest slender reinforced concrete column in the world.
However the most fascinating fact about the ‘Towers’, aside from the fact that they are almost 100 years old, is about the one man that built them: a 19th century Italian immigrant named Simon Rodia.
Rodia was born in 1879 in Ribottoli, Italy. He immigrated to the United States in 1898 and initially set down in Pennsylvania to work in the coal mines. Little is known about his early life other than he moved to the west coast of California in 1917 and found work in rock quarries and logging and railroad camps as a construction worker.
In 1921 after having lived in the city of Long Beach for five years, Rodia purchased a triangular-shaped lot at 1761-1765 107th Street in Los Angeles and began to construct his masterpiece, which he called “Nuestro Pueblo” (meaning “our town”). When asked why he made the towers, he answered, “I wanted to do something big and I did it.” Rodia spent almost 25 years working on the Towers from 1921 to 1955.
In 1955, when Rodia was approaching 75, he deeded his property to a neighbor and retired to Martinez, California to be near his family. After ten years of retirement, Rodia passed away in 1965.
The Watts Towers installation consists of seventeen major sculptures constructed of structural steel and covered with mortar, adorned with a diverse mosaic of broken glass, sea shells, pottery and tile, a rare piece of 19th century, hand painted Canton ware and many pieces of 20th century American ceramics. The ‘Towers’ were built without the benefit of any machine equipment, scaffolding, bolts, rivets, welds or drawing board designs. With his own ingenuity, Rodia used only simple tools, pipe fitter pliers and a window-washer’s belt and buckle.
The tallest tower is 30 meters high. The tower to its left is 29.5 meters and the next is 16.76 meters high. The highest tower contains the longest slender reinforced concrete column in the world. The monument also features a gazebo with a center column and a spire that reaches a height of 38 feet. The Watts Towers are under the care of the Watts Towers Arts Center and is available for tours. If you are planning a trip to Los Angeles or live in the area, it’s definitely worth the time to see the fruition of one man’s dream.
some photos from honestlywtf