LA Fridays with Bob and Tom: Watts Towers

Week 5:  Watts Towers


One determined and talented man, Simon Rodia, built the Watts Tower defying the traditions and criticism of the art world.  An Italian immigrant cement worker and tile setter, Rodia, built what is now considered an iconic historic landmark of the city of Los Angeles, and it’s an experience to visit it.


Rodia began construction of these rebar, concrete, and tile towers in 1921 and continued adding to them for about thirty three years. They are massive, skyward spiraling, tapering columns that consumed all of Rodia’s yard and towered over his home.  You can spend hours identifying the interesting inserts in the tiles, consisting of bottles, mosaic and ceramic tiles, seashells, figurines and mirrors. Amazingly, he built the towers with no special equipment or predetermined design, working alone with hand tools.  


The studio garden, which is part of the outside “Arts Centre” has live tortoises and  an art gallery and short film which is a must see to learn about the life and artistic creation of this extraordinary man.  Local staff is both friendly and informative.


The Towers are currently being conserved.  It’s expected to take about three years to complete so on site tours are out for the moment.  But information tours are available and arranged through “The Watts Art Centre”, or you can do a self-guided tour.  There are excellent information boards attached to the fence around the perimeter of the site.  We recommend the tour along the perimeter with a guide to get the inside tidbits of info and gossip about Rodia and his fascinating and curious creation, The Watts Towers.  There is also plenty of history to be found on the web prior to visiting.


The Watts Towers are located near the 103rd Street/Watts Towers Los Angeles Metro station.  There is also plenty of free parking around the site. 


After seeing it, it’s hard to believe one man did this on his own!!




Bob and Tom