THE WATTS TOWERS

PLACES

When driving through Los Angeles on the I-105 you might catch a startling sight among the rows of tract houses: a handful of spindly towers glittering in the Southern California sun, jutting up out of nowhere on a tiny spot of land. You're seeing Nuestro Pueblo, more commonly known as the Watts Towers.

In 1865 a fifteen year old Italian boy named Simon Rodia emigrated to the Unites States with his brother, and settled in Pennyslvania. After the untimely death of his brother in a mining accident, Rodia did what many single men with no family of the time did: he headed west, eventually settling in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles in 1920.

The next year, Rodia began construction on his towers. The Watts Towers are a series of 17 interconnected structures made out of steel rebar, Rodia's own blend of concrete, and wire mesh. Embedded into the concrete are a myriad of found objects: broken glass, ceramic pieces, old soda bottles, sea shells, figurines, and more, much of it brought to him by neighborhood children. Lacking formal training in either art or construction, Rodia's towers are considered one of the best examples of outsider or Italian-American naive art. The towers were eventually complete in 1954, 33 years after his project began.

By 1955 Rodia was tired of battling the city for permits. He left his house and project to move with his sister in Martinez, California. He passed away ten years later.

The Watts Towers were kept alive by a concerted effort of artists and celebrities before the city finally declared them a historical landmark in 1990. They now sit in what is called the Simon Rodia Historic State Park. The park is open to the public with regular visiting hours.