Saturday, July 27, 2013

Watts Towers, Los Angeles

On Friday before the wedding rehearsal, my brother-in-law (who had the day off from work) went with me to see the Watts Towers and the Korean Bell Monument at San Pedro.  I had always wanted to see the Watts Towers, and my brother-in-law, who had never been before, was also intrigued.  They were designed and built by Simon Rodia (b. 1879, d. 1965) on the site of his own home (since burnt down), without the use of proper ladders.  That's astonishing, considering the structures are as high as 99 feet (there were laws prohibiting 100 foot structures) and he was not a young man during much of the building.  Additionally, he used a medley of pottery, glass, and shells to make designs throughout the complex.  The towers survived multiple earthquakes (and riots), and are reported to be exceptionally strong and durable, to the point that architects have made detailed studies of them.  

Tours are only given a few days a week, and while it's possible to view the structure for free from the street, I highly recommend the 30-minute, $7 tours since they allow you to see the level of detail close up.  Let me reassure those of you who might be thinking, "WATTS? NO FRIGGIN' WAY I'M GOING TO WATTS!" that the area immediately around the structure is perfectly safe.  There's ample parking right outside the structure, so you can keep an eye on your car, too.  I will admit that the drive from the freeway exit to the towers is fairly eye-opening, however.

The empty lot in the foreground is the site of Simon Rodia's home, which burnt down in the 1950s.




Rodia used several types of soda bottles, but entirely avoided Coke bottles.  He preferred 7-Up for its color.



By the way, you aren't allowed to touch anything.  
















The curators believe that Rodia had a ship theme throughout the complex, and that the towers themselves could be modeled after the masts of a boat.



The tour guide points out the ship idea to my fellow tourists.











My brother-in-law uses one of the original "doors" to the complex.










To get this design, Rodia used sprinkler heads.  Pretty ingenious.

If I recall correctly, this is volcanic rock that Rodia acquired from Arizona.  He was nothing if not resourceful, using most of his non-work waking hours to add to the towers.



Note the perimeter fence, which is why I recommend actually purchasing a tour ticket.

Later artists added a tower tribute to the trees at left center.

Bear in mind = Rodia climbed up here himself.  Another reminder = 99 FEET TALL.  What's the Italian for "bad ass?"








This colorful house is directly across the street from the towers.





Note the plane landing at LAX above.




How on earth Rodia did this part without dying (remember - no ladders!) is beyond me.

Coming up next = San Pedro.  Stay tuned.

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