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    Watts Towers: we visit Simon Rodia's visionary work in Los Angeles

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    Joel Fulleda

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    Los Angeles is full of buildings, monuments and palaces made by famous architects and paid in most cases millions of dollars. Just think of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, MOCA, The Broad. but in this multi-faceted city we also find an incredible work of art built in 30 years thanks to the skills and tenacity of a single man, completely at his expense: they are the Watts Towers by Simon Rodia.


    • What are the Watts Towers
    • Where they are and how to get there
    • Tickets and Opening Hours
    • Why visit them?
    • Where to sleep in the area

    What are the Watts Towers

    The Watts Towers are five towers with a total of 17 spiers built of steel and lined with makeshift materials: many small objects such as pieces of glass, ceramics, shells, stones collected and put together to form a mosaic of unique shapes and colors.

    The artist who created them? A humble Spanish immigrant from the province of Avellino, Saturday (Simon) Rodia, who arrived on Ellis Island in 1895 at the age of 15. He will live in various American states doing various jobs until he settles in Watts in California in 1920. Here, upon returning from daily work, he begins his visionary work.

    Watts was and still is a popular neighborhood with few attractions and entertainment for residents. Over the years, thanks to its location and its history, the Watts Towers have become a symbol of rebirth, of the strength and inspiration that a single man can have, of affirming his own identity and also of fighting for civil rights.

    The reputation of the tenacity of this semi-illiterate man soon became international. Just think that the face of Simon Rodia appears in 1967 on the cover of the famous album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band of the Beatles next to the much more famous face of Bob Dylan.

    Where they are and how to get there

    The Watts Towers are located within the Watts Towers of Simon Rodia State Historic Park al 1765 107th East Street in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles.

    The site is easily accessible with the metro Line A, the blue. The best stop is 103rd Street / Watts Towers and from there you will have to walk approximately 8-10 minutes along Graham Avenue to reach them. I recommend that you go during the day given the bad reputation of the neighborhood.

    If you are in auto, there is the rest area called Watts Towers Arts Campus Parking just below the towers and you can leave your car there.

    Read our tips on:

    • how to get around Los Angeles
    • like renting a car in Los Angeles

    Tickets and Opening Hours

    The towers are tall and clearly visible from the street. The highest reaches, in fact, 30 meters. However, if you want to admire them up close as you enter the park, just join a guided tour.

    Tours are organized by Watts Towers Art Center and illustrate the history and context in which the towers were erected allowing you to get close to them and admire them from below.

    Tours take place:

    • from Thursday to Saturday from 10:30 to 15:00
    • Sunday from 12:30 to 15:00.

    Unfortunately, for safety reasons, the center in recent years has preferred to interrupt the guided tours and wait for any maintenance work to be completed. Before closing, the cost of the tours was $ 7.

    Why visit them?

    “I wanted to make something big and I succeeded” these are the simple words of the Spanish immigrant Rodia to explain his work. Evening after evening, all by himself, his idea becomes reality. Every night between 1921 and 1954 the Rodia Towers increase in size and height and are embellished with recycled materials selected by Rodia himself. For well 33 years it will always and only he to create, modify, strengthen and embellish the structure.

    Some neighbors, initially intrigued by this particular work, begin to appreciate the work and consider it a beautification of the neighborhood in itself isolated and poor. When in the XNUMXs the city government decided to demolish them because they lack building permits and were considered dangerous, they formed citizen committees to defend them and keep them intact.

    Rodia suddenly left the Watts neighborhood in 1955 and moved with her sister in Martinez, also in California. According to some due to health problems, according to others because he was tired of having to fight with vandalism on the one hand and the permits of the municipality that did not arrive on the other. He will never return to Watts and will not participate in any city petition not to tear down its towers.

    In the end, however, on 10 October 1959 it will be the citizens of the neighborhood, together with some important architects and engineers, to prove to the authorities that the towers would be able to withstand earthquakes and strong winds thanks to a test with cranes and large steel cables attached to the towers.

    In addition to the Beatles album, the towers have appeared in films, TV series, documentaries and for their extravagance over the decades have been the protagonists of festivals and musical events. The management and maintenance of the towers has passed over the years from the Committee for Simon Rodia's Towers to the City of Los Angeles and the State of California. Today the Watts Towers Art Center and the city's Cultural Affairs office run the site to try and keep aunique urban artwork in the world.

    Where to sleep in the area

    The Watts neighborhood is a popular neighborhood as well degraded and poor. In the evening, therefore, it could be dangerous. Because of this we do not recommend sleeping here. By reading our article on where to sleep in Los Angeles you can choose other neighborhoods to stay and then organize a visit to these famous towers that have now become an icon of the City of Angels.

    Our tips on where to sleep in Los Angeles

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