Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Watts Towers

Over the course of 34 years from 1921-1955, Italian immigrant Simon Rodia (1879-1965) built a series of giant structures in his backyard in Watts out of scrap metal and concrete. Rodia's Watts Towers are the largest folk art monument in the country built by a single individual.

Watts lies with the flight path of the Los Angeles International Airport so Rodia limited the tallest tower to 99.5 feet (30 meters) in order to avoid having to comply with special regulations governing structures over 100 feet tall.

Rodia was a construction worker and tile-setter and worked on his backyard structure in the evenings and on the weekends. Within the exterior wall surrounding the plot, there are over 15 separate sculptures including towers, gazebos, seating areas, and small fountains.

Rodia made the structures climbable so that he did not need scaffolding to work on the higher portions of the towers.

A detail of a support buttress between two of the towers lined with hearts:

Rodia decorated the sculptures with tile remnants, broken glass and pottery, hand-drawn and imprinted designs, and sea shells:

For many years, Rodia worked at the Malibu Tile Company and was able to acquire broken and remnant Malibu Tiles for his towers:

Bottle bottoms:

At the narrow point of his triangular-shaped plot, Rodia built a sculpture called the "Ship of Marco Polo" with its helm pointed East toward Italy:
Ginger ale bottles decorating the arch over a doorway:

The Watts Towers and the adjacent community arts center are open to the public for tours on Thursdays (10:30-3), Fridays (11-3), Saturdays (10:30-3), and Sundays (12:30-3). The tours are $7 for adults, $3 for seniors and teenagers, and free for kids under 12. There is additional information about the towers and the adjacent community arts center at The Watts Towers Arts Center website, however, the information on the website is not up-to-date. For updates on hours and visiting info, call 213-847-4646.

The Towers are located at 1761-1765 East 107th St. in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles.

View Watts Towers in a larger map


  1. Thanks for a look at the towers. I'm 62, and haven't visited them since the 1960s. You're blog makes me want to return.

  2. Great blog with fantastic photos. I returned to LA from San Diego after many years, and your blog is the perfect guide to explore. Thank you.

  3. amazing!I don't know nothing abou LA, but I wish visit! Thank for your blog!

  4. I have heard of these for many years and have yet to visit. Your blog makes me want to go. Thank you.