A few weeks ago I read a story about the Watts Towers in the New York Times, and was struck by the following point: “The Watts Towers may hold the twin distinctions of being perhaps the finest example of indigenous Los Angeles art and the least known, or least visited, by people who live in the region.” He’s right, you know. I’ve lived in LA for over a decade and until today had never visited these extraordinary installations. My friend Lizzie and I set out in the rain for South Central this morning and I don’t think either of us really knew just how incredible the Watts Towers would be. The whole scene is madness—the result of three decades of an eccentric tinkering in his back yard. Sabato “Simon” Rodia was an Italian immigrant who measured 4’10” and built all of this by hand starting in the 1920s—17 structures constructed of steel and mortar, and covered in broken glass bottles, cracked ceramic plates, sea shells and tiles.
He did all of this without any scaffolding or welding, bolts or rivets. The towers reach almost 100 feet. The tower photographed below reaches 99 1/2 feet, and represents the tallest slender reinforced concrete column in the world.
He called his vision Nuestro Pueblo (meaning “Our Town”) and performed weddings and baptisms within the towers for the community.
In addition to three bird baths, a circular gazebo, a replica of Marco Polo’s ship and many other expected details, look closely and you will discover a cactus garden erected from crushed green glass and surrounded by the artist’s “rose garden” he created using these tiles:
For anyone into ceramics, it’s incredible. I recognized some Batchelder, as well as some pieces of Fiestaware and J.A. Bauer, and our tour guide pointed out hand-painted Canton ware and Malibu Tiles from the 20s.
You can tour inside the towers Friday through Sunday, and admission costs $7. For hours and info, click HERE.