The Watts Towers

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    The Towers of Simon Rodia in Watts, more commonly known as simply the Watts Towers, were constructed using simple tile setting tools by an Italian immigrant named Sabato (Simon) Rodia.  Rodia was born in 1879, as was Albert Einstein.  He came to the United States at age 14 beginning his life here in America in and around the coal mines of Pittsburgh. PA.  The sculptures resulting from Rodia's solitary labor of over 33 years are the greatest work completed by a single individual using simple tile setting tools!

The Towers of Simon Rodia, consisting of nine major sculptures constructed of structural steel and covered with mortar, are the work of one man - Simon Rodia. Simon adorned them with a diverse mosaic of broken glass, sea shells, generic pottery and tile. There is a rare piece of 19th century hand-painted Canton ware and many pieces of 20th-century American ceramics.

The tallest of the towers stands 99.5 feet high (30.34 meters). The central tower stands 97.8 feet high (29.83 meters) and once contained the longest slender reinforced concrete column in the world. The east tower is 55 feet high (16.76 meters).

Simon's monument to perseverence and dedication features a gazebo with a circular bench, three bird baths, a center column and a spire reaching a height of 38 feet. Rodia's Ship of Marco Polo has a spire of 28 feet.

The 140 foot-long "South Wall" is extensively decorated with tiles, sea shells, pottery, glass and hand-drawn designs. But with all this wonder after Simon completed the work in the mid-1950's the Department of Building and Safety ordered the Towers demolished. IT DID NOT HAPPEN!

A group of concerned citizens, calling themselves "The Committee for Simon Rodia's Towers in Watts," collected signatures and money and devised an engineering test that proved the Towers were strong and safe. They fought successfully and saved the Towers from destruction.

In 1975, the Committee, which had preserved the Towers independently for 16 years, gave the Towers and an adjoining Art Center they'd constructed to the City of Los Angeles for operation and maintenance. In 1978, the Towers were deeded to the State of California. Finally realizing the value of Simon's life's work, the State undertook an extensive restoration project. By 1985, the restoration project was again assumed by the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department. It continues today...?

While the Towers fall into no strict art catagory, international authorities and the general public here at home have lauded them as a unique monument to the human spirit and the perseverance of singular vision.

The Towers of Simon Rodia are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. They are a National Historic Landmark, a California State Historical Monument and designated as the California Historic Park and Historic-Cultural Monument No. 15.

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M. Lawrence Dickerson

Revised aPRIL 10, 2012
Images on this page and their linked enlargements captured digitally by M.LawrenceDickerson