Watts Towers

Infobox_nrhp2 | name =Watts Towers of Simon Rodia

caption = "Watts Towers", 1765 East 107th St., Los Angeles
location= 10618-10626 Graham Avenue, and 1711-1765 E. 107th Street, Los Angeles, CA
lat_degrees = 33 | lat_minutes = 56 | lat_seconds = 19.46 | lat_direction = N
long_degrees = 118 | long_minutes = 14 | long_seconds = 27.77 | long_direction = W
locmapin = California
area =
built =1921
architect= Simon Rodia
designated_nhl = December 14, 1990 cite web|url=http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=1718&ResourceType=Site
title=Watts Towers|date=2007-09-18|work=National Historic Landmark summary listing|publisher=National Park Service
designated_other2_name = L.A. Historic-Cultural Monument
designated_other2_date = 01 Mar, 1963Citation | last = Los Angeles Department of City Planning | date = 2007-09-07 | title = Historic - Cultural Monuments (HCM) Listing: City Declared Monuments | place = | publisher = City of Los Angeles | edition = | url =http://www.cityprojectca.org/ourwork/documents/HCMDatabase090707.pdf | accessdate = 2008-05-28 ]
designated_other2_abbr = LAHCM
designated_other2_color = #ffc94b
designated_other2_number = 15
added = April 13, 1977cite web|url=http://www.nr.nps.gov/|title=National Register Information System|date=2007-01-23|work=National Register of Historic Places|publisher=National Park Service]
governing_body = Local
The "Watts Towers" or "Nuestro Pueblo" in the Watts district of Los Angeles, California, is a collection of 17 interconnected structures, two of which reach heights of over 99 feet (30 m). The Towers were built by Italian immigrant construction worker Sabato ("Sam" or "Simon") Rodia in his spare time over a period of 33 years, from 1921 to 1954. The work is a superb example of non-traditional vernacular architecture and American Naïve art [http://www.nr.nps.gov/writeups/77000297.nl.pdf NHL Writeup] ] . The Towers are located near (and visible from) the 103rd Street-Kenneth Hahn Station of the Metro Rail LACMTA Blue Line.

They were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990

Design and construction

The sculptures' armatures are constructed from steel pipes and rods, wrapped with wire mesh, coated with mortar. The main supports are embedded with pieces of porcelain, tile, and glass. They are decorated with "found objects": bed frames, bottles, ceramic tiles, scrap metal and sea shells. Rodia called the towers "Nuestro Pueblo," meaning "our town." Rodia built them with no special equipment or (so far as is known) predetermined design, working alone with hand tools and window-washer's equipment. Neighborhood children brought pieces of broken glass and pottery to Rodia in hopes they would be added to the project, but the majority of Rodia's material consisted of damaged pieces from the Malibu Pottery, where he worked for many years. Green glass includes recognizable soft drink bottles, some still bearing the logos of 7 Up, Squirt, Bubble Up, and Canada Dry; blue glass appears to be from milk of magnesia bottles.Rodia bent up much of the "Towers"' framework from scrap rebar, using nearby railroad tracks as a sort of 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).

Rodia reportedly did not get along with his neighbors, some of whom allowed their children to vandalize his work. Rumors that the towers were antennae for communicating with enemy Japanese forces, or contained buried treasure, caused suspicion and further vandalism.

In 1955, Rodia gave the property away and left, reportedly tired of the abuse he had received. He retired to Martinez, California, and never came back. He died a decade later.

After Rodia

The property changed hands, Rodia's bungalow inside the enclosure was burned down, and the city of Los Angeles condemned the structure and ordered it razed. An actor, Nicholas King, and a film editor, William Cartwright, visited the site in 1959, saw the neglect, and decided to buy the property for $3,000 in order to preserve it. When the city found out about the transfer, it decided to perform the demolition before the transfer went through. The towers had already become famous and there was opposition from around the world. King, Cartwright, and a curator of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, along with area architects, artists, and community activists formed the "Committee for Simon Rodia's Towers in Watts." The Committee negotiated with the city to allow for an engineering test to establish the safety of the structures.

For the test, steel cable was attached to each tower and a crane was used to exert lateral force. The crane was unable to topple or even shift the towers, and the test was concluded when the crane experienced mechanical failure.

The committee preserved the towers independently until 1975, when it deeded the site to the City of Los Angeles, which deeded it to the State of California in 1978. It is now designated the Watts Towers of Simon Rodia State Historic Park. It is operated by the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department. The towers are one of nine folk art sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990.cite web|url=PDFlink| [http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NHLS/Text/77000297.pdf "The Towers of Simon Rodia", June 18, 1990, by Arloa Paquin Goldstone] |1.26 MiB |title=National Register of Historic Places Registration|date=1990-06-18|publisher=National Park Service] cite web|url=PDFlink| [http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NHLS/Photos/77000297.pdf The Towers of Simon Rodia--Accompanying 8 photos, from 1967-1989.] |1.36 MiB |title=National Register of Historic Places Registration|date=1990-06-18|publisher=National Park Service]

The steel, concrete and glass folk art structures were undamaged during the Watts riots in 1965. However, the towers did suffer minor damage in the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. They were repaired and were reopened to the public in 2001.

The Watts Towers Arts Center is an adjacent community arts center that was opened in 1970.

References in popular culture

*The Watts Towers, and their creator Simon Rodia's friendship with a 10-year-old boy, are a major focus of "Daniel and The Towers", a 1987 made-for-television movie.
*The plot of E.L. Konigsburg's "The Outcasts of 19 Shuyler Place" involves a young girl's efforts to save the three towers made from metal pipes and broken glass, china, etc. from demolition planned by the city's council which claims that the towers pose a safety hazard. The reason those towers were built was that the builders wanted to do something big, just like Rodia.
* The Towers are mentioned in the Dragnet '67, Season 3, Episode DR-11 "Management Services." The episode discusses LA as being a center of art culture and the Towers are used as a prime example.
* The Towers are featured in the opening scene of "Wattstax", a 1973 documentary film by Mel Stuart that focused on the 1972 Wattstax music festival and the African American community of Watts in Los Angeles.
* Ambient musical group Porn Sword Tobacco recorded a song called "Watts Towers".
* The towers are celebrated in Episode 3 of Jacob Bronowski's famous TV documentary "Ascent of Man".
* The Watts Towers play a significant role in the 1991 crime-thriller film "Ricochet".
* In "Solomania!": A Festival of one-man(woman) shows (2006), Roger Guenveur Smith's "The Watts Towers Project" relates to the audience his fascination of the Watts Towers as he attempts to discover his own personal mark as an artist.
* Menace II Society has a flyover shot of the towers.
* Charles Mingus' autobiography, "Beneath the Underdog" makes reference to the towers as a part of Mingus' upbringing. [ [http://www.mingusmingusmingus.com/Mingus/towers.html Mingus: Towers ] ]
* Don DeLillo's novel "Underworld" refers to the towers.
* An episode of the HBO original series "Six Feet Under" features the towers, (series 3, episode 4, timecode 33.17).
* "Colors" features a car chase scene that ends when the Crips' car being chased crashes into one of the towers.
* The Towers were once used to film (or videotape) a brief location segment that appeared on the "Donny & Marie" variety show. In the segment, the Osmonds sang, then briefly described the Towers.
* The 1976 blaxploitation horror film "Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde" climaxes with the title villain confronted by police outside the towers. The police refuse to fire on him because he is standing in front of the mosaic walls surrounding the towers. He escapes inside the structure and climbs one of the towers until he is shot down by the police. The towers were even featured prominently in the poster art for the film.
* The towers make a brief appearance in the car racing video game, "LA Rush", on which the city is based on Los Angeles
*Robert Duncan (1919- ) wrote a poem entitled "Nel Mezzo Del Cammin Di Nostra Vita," published in "Roots and Branches" in 1964. This poem uses the Watts Towers as the focal image, discussing them as "art dedicated to itself" and as a kind of celebration of the individual, comparing the towers to the church and suggesting that they are a kind of church of the creative self.
* One scene in Andy Warhol & Taylor Meade's 1964 film entitled "Tarzan and Jane Regained... Sort of" was shot in the towers.
* The towers appear on the original cover of the 1975 album Brown Rice, by jazz trumpeter Don Cherry and the 1958 album "Harold in the Land of Jazz" by saxophonist Harold Land.
* The towers appear in the show on BET called "Baldwin Hills".
* The towers briefly appear in the music video for "Hate It or Love It" by The Game featuring 50 Cent.
* The towers feature heavily in an episode of the short-lived science fiction series "Dark Skies", with the strong suggestion being that Rodia was inspired to build them by a telepathic vision of the human DNA helix.
* Los Angeles underground MC MURS references the towers in the song "LA" from his 2006 album "Murray's Revenge" : "From the "Towers in Watts", to the hills of Alta Dena."
* The towers appear in the video game "" in the Ballas-controlled Jefferson area in east "Los Santos, San Andreas", the game's fictional take on Los Angeles.
* An episode of Sanford and Son called "Tower Power" involves Fred Sanford building a structure from his own junk that was obviously inspired by the Watts towers, although they are not mentioned by name.
* Appear in "Rize", a documentary about a dance style called Krumping in South Central Los Angeles.
* The towers appear on the cover of 2001 album 2000 Watts, by R&B artist Tyrese.
* The story " Beautiful Junk," is a fictional story about the artist of the towers and a boy. The book's author is Jon Madian and is copyrighted in 1968.

ee also

* Antoni Gaudí, a Catalan architect with a similar style, particularly "La Sagrada Família" in Barcelona.
* Qutub Minar, including a similarly-shaped ancient Indian tower.
* Baldasare Forestiere, another Italian immigrant in California born the same year as Rodia who built the Forestiere Underground Gardens.
* Hermit House, a unique residence located in Herzliya, Israel with intricate mosaics entirely constructed by one man over thirty years.
*Mystery Castle, a house in Phoenix, Arizona built in the 1930s in a similar style.
*Nitt Witt Ridge, a house in Cambria, California constructed in a similar style.
*Rubel Castle, a house in Glendora, California constructed in a similar style.
*Ferdinand Cheval, a French postman who constructed an "ideal palace" out of rocks in his spare time.
*Justo Gallego Martínez, a Spaniard who built his own cathedral
* List of Registered Historic Places in Los Angeles


External links

* [http://www.ibuildthetower.com/index.html "I Build the Tower", a feature-length documentary film about Simon Rodia and the Watts Towers]
* [http://www.wattstowers.org/ www.wattstowers.org]
* [http://www.kcet.org/lifeandtimes/arts/watts_history.php KCET Life & Times. "History of the Towers"]
* [http://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=613 Official State Park Website]
* [http://www.wattstowers.us/ The website dedicated entirely to Sam Rodia's Watts Towers and their impact on international art]
* [http://www.sphericalpanoramas.com/rodia.html Spherical panoramas of Rodia's work]
* [http://www.trywatts.com/Towers_Books/index2.html Most Everything That Ever Mentioned, Showed, Documented or Featured the Watts Towers]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/TowersTh1957 "The Towers", A 1957 documentary]
* [http://www.victoriansecrets.net/watts.htm Rodia's Watts Towers Photodocumentary with ruins of Rodia's house, plus surprising new biographical information]
* [http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hh:@field(NUMBER+@band(CA1009)) Library of Congress: America's Memory]
* [http://www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/Watts_Towers.html Watts Towers on Great Buildings www.greatbuildings.com]

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