One Good Life in Los Angeles

Roslyn's observations about places and events around Southern California

Saturday adventure part one – Memories of Watts Towers

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watts towers

I don’t remember when was the last time I was at the Watts Towers but it is possibly 15 to 20 years ago… or more, or less. As I am sure I have mentioned before, as you get older time warps into a continuum. Yesterday is as pale as 30 years ago and 30 years ago is as fresh as yesterday.

watts towers

I signed up for a photography class through Santa Monica College consisting of riding the rails to visit various locations around LA. I’ve been to all the places on the itinerary and photographed them. But as much as I love exploring on my own or being accompanied by friends without cameras (who are rightly impatient while I get the perfect shot), once in a while I enjoy sharing a day with other photographers.

watts towers

One minor problem, I had discovered on the journey to downtown LA on the Expo Line that the 7th & Metro station was closed for upgrading all weekend. Passengers had to disembark at the 23rd Street Station (recently renamed as LATTC/Ortho Institute Station just to complicate matters) and take a shuttle bus to the end of the line. Then I resumed my trip on the Red Line to Union Station.

So in order to get to Watts Towers on the Blue Line, we had to go through the Red Line/shuttle bus/Blue Line conundrum there and back again. But we survived.

watts towers

Watts was our first photo stop. We alighted the train at 103rd Street and walked the few blocks to the Towers.

A million years ago when I was a docent with the Los Angeles Conservancy I had the honor of leading several tours through the Towers.

watts towers

To quote Wikipedia: The Watts Towers, Towers of Simon Rodia, or Nuestro Pueblo (“our town”) are a collection of 17 interconnected sculptural structures within the Simon Rodia State Historic Park in the Watts community of Los Angeles. The tallest of the towers reaches a height of over 99 feet (30 m). The towers and walls were designed and built by Sabato (“Simon”) Rodia (1879-1965), an Italian immigrant construction worker and tile mason, over a period of 33 years, from 1921 to 1954.

watts towers

The Towers are amazing enough but when you consider they were built by one man who spent every spare minute of his life thinking about the design, collecting materials and working on the construction, it is nothing less than a miracle. Rodia would not let anybody else help him. After all, it was all in his mind and how could he get across to anybody else what he wanted to do?

watts towers

At the same time he was working on this project he had a fulltime job in construction. Of course, it was these skills that enabled him to build his masterpiece.

watts towers

Kids would bring him items they “found” around the neighborhood or their homes in exchange for candy. Who knows how many teacups or vases went missing and ended up as part of the mosaics?

watts towers

The day came when Rodia decided he was done. All the work had taken its toll and in 1955 at the age of 76 he turned the keys to his property over to the neighbors and left Los Angeles to live with his sister. He never returned and died ten years later.watts towers

At one point the city was about to demolish the entire site. But there was an outcry from around the world. A structural test was performed which the Towers passed with flying colors. So the Towers were saved. In 1990 they were designated both a National Historic Landmark and a California Historical Landmark. The site is currently operated by the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department.

watts towers

In order to get inside past the fence to take photos you have to take the tour. But at $3 for the senior entrance fee I was not complaining. And despite the best efforts of the docent who was herding us along like 3rd graders, I did manage to take a few photos. The blazing sun didn’t help either!

watts towers

Of course I always want more time but I think the pictures I was able to get give you a pretty good idea of what the Watts Towers are all about!

watts towers

Our next stop was back to downtown LA and the Grand Central Market for lunch. I’ll continue the tour in a future post.

All photos and content copyright roslyn m wilkins. Please feel free to pass along this post via email or social media, but if you wish to use some of our images or text outside of the context of this blog, either give full credit to myself and link to One Good Life in Los Angeles, or contact us for proper usage. Thanks!

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Author: RMW

I am an explorer and creative person. I've had many jobs, careers and interests... everything in life and the universe fascinates me. Born in Brighton, England, I've lived my entire adult life in Los Angeles. Recently I rediscovered photography and I am busy learning everything I can about it. It's a great excuse for getting outside, wandering around and stopping to look at things.

15 thoughts on “Saturday adventure part one – Memories of Watts Towers

  1. Thanks for this great tour! Incredible structures seen through your perfect shots!!!

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  2. In all my years of living in LA, I never saw these. I’d heard of them, but just never got around to visiting. After seeing these photos, I regret it.

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  3. Well I know I went there with you and it was probably a conservancy tour. 15 years ago is probably right. Love your photos.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  4. Awesome post and it indeed is a masterpiece. I can’t imagine Rodia did this all alone…must have been so much passionate about it.
    A must watch for anybody going to LA.

    We have something similar in Chandigarh, India…they made structures from trash of ceramic, glass etc. They call it Rock Garden.

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  5. Wow! These are great photos. Roslyn! I don’t think you need a photography class. 🙂

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  6. Pingback: Saturday adventure part two – lunch time at Grand Central Market | One Good Life in Los Angeles

  7. Beautiful angles and perspectives Roslyn!

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  8. What an extraordinary story! Your photos are so incredible, Roslyn. I so enjoyed this post. 🙂

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