Watts Towers in Los Angeles

Topics: Watts Towers, Simon Rodia, National Register of Historic Places Pages: 11 (501 words) Published: December 13, 2014

1761-1765 East 107th Street
Watts, Los Angeles, California

Watts Towers

Treatment Start: 1978
Treatment: Ongoing
Frank Preusser, Senior scientist, LACMA
Conservator: Sara Dorsch
Type: Outdoor Yard Building
Media: Concrete Structure
Use: Historic Site
Owner: Cultural Affairs Department, Watts Towers Arts Center and tours

The Watts Towers, Towers of Simon Rodia, or Nuestro Pueblo ("our town"), are within the Simon Rodia State Historic Park, in the Watts community of Los Angeles, Southern California. They are a collection of 17 interconnected sculptural structures, the tallest reaching a height of over 99 feet (30 m). The towers and walls were designed and built by Italian immigrant construction worker and tile mason Sabato ("Simon") Rodia (1879-1965), over a period of 33 years, from 1921 to 1954. The work is an example of outsider art, vernacular architecture and Italian-American naïve art. The Watts Towers are located near the 103rd Street / Watts Towers Los Angeles Metro station of the Los Angeles County Metro Rail Blue Line, and off the I-105 Century Freeway. They were designated a National Historic Landmark and a California Historical Landmark in 1990. They are also a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, and on the National Register of Historic Places in Los Angeles. [1] Design and construction

The sculptures' armatures are constructed from steel rebar and his own concoction of a type of concrete, wrapped with wire mesh. The main supports are embedded with pieces of porcelain, tile, and glass. They are decorated with found objects, including bottles, ceramic tiles, sea shells, figurines, mirrors, and much, much more. Rodia called the Towers 'Nuestro Pueblo' (which means 'our town' in Spanish). Rodia built his Tower’s with no special equipment or predetermined design, he worked alone with his hand tools. Neighborhood children brought pieces of broken pottery to Rodia, and he also used damaged pieces from the Malibu Pottery and CALCO (California Clay Products Company). Green glass includes recognizable soft drink bottles from the 1930s through 1950s, some still bearing the former logos of 7 Up, Squirt, Bubble Up, and Canada Dry; blue glass appears to be from milk of magnesia bottles. Rodia bent much of the Towers' framework from scrap rebar, using nearby railroad tracks as a makeshift vise. Other items came from alongside the Pacific Electric Railway right of way between Watts and Wilmington. Rodia often walked the right of way all the way to Wilmington in search of material, a distance of nearly 20 miles (32 km). In 1955, Rodia 'quit claimed' his property to a neighbor and left, reportedly tired of battling with the City of Los Angeles for permits, and because he understood the possible consequences of his aging and being alone. He moved to Martinez, California to be with his sister and never returned. He died ten years later. [2]

One of the sensors placed at Watts Towers by UCLA engineers.

LACMA’s Frank Preusser points to some pieces of the original, corroded steel framework of the towers.

More remnants from fallen bits of the Watts Towers. Photos by Avishay Artsy.

A Man Alone: Simon Rodia Bibliography:

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