Watts Towers don’t suck
I just want to talk about Watts Towers for a second. They pretty much embody what this blog is about. Angelinos deride them. They say they are ugly, that they are unsafe and that they are in a dangerous neighborhood. Angelinos say the Watts Towers suck.
Have you ever actually gone down to see them? They’re amazing. They’re impossibly tall, much more than you would guess from seeing them in pictures. Two of them rise about 100 feet above street level. Simon Rodia built these incredible things over decades, and he built them from Los Angeles. Fiestaware, Malibu tiles, 7Up bottles - he salvaged pieces of early 20th century Los Angeles and assembled an amazing junk sculpture, a lasting piece of folk art that inspires the city from which it’s created. He devoted half his life to making these soaring spires, evocative of cathedrals and old-growth forrests. What was once a modest backyard is now a brilliant gift for a city in need of its own spirit.
An excerpt from the NRHP registration form:
The tower east of the Gazebo is the West Tower the tallest at 99-1/2’, and the last tall tower built by the artist. Rodia built this tall tower and the others without use of a ladder or scaffold. A small man, about 5’ tall, he waited until the cement hardened on the lower levels and then climbed up, using the horizontal rings as his ladder rungs. Over his shoulder was a bag of dampened cement and a bag of decorations, and in one hand was a steel reinforcement.
When the city council tried to have them condemned and destroyed a small group of activists and artists banded together and saved them. In an incredible test of their stability they could not be knocked over or even budged by a crane winching a steel cable and in fact broke the crane.
Modern folk legends surround the towers. People claim they were used as a broadcasting tower by Tokyo Rose during World War II, or that Rodia buried a vast treasure (and also his wife) on the premises.
The towers are located at 1765 East 107th Street in Watts, just north of the 105 freeway.