MATINEE – Simon Rodia & The Watts Towers

[youtube width=”590″ height=”420″][/youtube] rodiaTHE TOWERS (1957; 12 minutes) is a documentary about Simon Rodia (1879-1965) building the Watts Towers.

Details: Born near the Naples, Italy, Simon Rodia emigrated to Pennsylvania at 15. When his brother was killed in a mining accident, Simon moved to the West Coast and eventually settled in Watts in the early 1920s. He began creating the towers in 1921 and finished in 1948. Seven years later, frustrated by vandalism and disputes with his neighbors, he suddenly gave the property to neighbor Luis Sauceda and walked away. He was 75 years of age.

Simon Rodia lived in Martinez, California until his death in 1965. He never viewed his Towers again.

Epilogue: Luis Sauceda sold the towers to Joseph Montoya one year later, who planned to use them as a backdrop for a taco stand but never did. Rodia’s little house was gutted by fire in 1956 and the towers were condemned as a safety hazard. “The Committee for Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts” fought successfully to save the Towers by collecting signatures, buying the property for $3,000 and then devising an engineering test in 1959 that proved the Towers’ strength and safety. In 1975 the state of California and the city of Los Angeles assumed responsibility for conservation and maintenance of the towers as a public heritage site. The Watts Towers are a National Historic Landmark, a State of California Historic Park and Historic-Cultural Monument No. 15, as designated by the City of Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission.

What: The Watts Towers
1761-1765 East 107th Street, Watts

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