We often remember a location for an unfortunate event; a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, and in this case, a riot. The Watts Riots broke out in August of 1965 after an African American man was arrested for drunk driving and a fight broke out. The city responded in outrage which lead to six days of violence and looting. The result was 34 deaths, over a thousand injured, and over $40 million dollars in property damage. The riots were the result of a corrupt and racist police department.
Anyway, today I want to share with you another reason that Watts should be on the map. While many people at least know of the Watts Towers, I have found most Los Angelenos have never paid a visit. Several weeks ago when my Dad was in town, and my brother was in South Bay with us, Sye suggested we swing by Watts Towers as he had never been. I had never heard of them before, and Dad has only seen them from the train, so we were both totally game.
Some may tell you that Watts is a dangerous neighborhood, but it didn’t seen any more dangerous than the rest of LA to me. We passed by a barber shop, a mechanic, a few houses, and then just off the highway there was a park and the infamous Watts Towers. Our visit took place on a Sunday, but I have a feeling it’s relatively easy to find parking any day of the week, which is a great change of pace from most LA attractions. We grabbed a spot on the street just a few feet away, and set off to explore.
The park itself houses a tiny arena, a playground, basketball hoops, plenty of grass, and a public bathroom. Additionally, there is an art gallery/community center, and an outdoor garden area with a pond that is home to a few turtles!
The towers themselves are fenced off, but there are guided tours offered every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We opted not to take the tour as we were there before they started, but after seeing the outside, I would say it’s well worth the $7.00 so that you can enter into the enclosed area. I especially wish we had so I could have offered you more pictures. The cost to enter also helps to maintain the structure and their arts center.
The Towers themselves are the creation of Simon Rodia, an Italian immigrant. After purchasing the property in 1921, Rodia spent over 30 years completing the Towers. The Towers themselves are made of reinforced concrete and are decorated using found objects such as tile, glass, shell, and ceramic. At one point the structures were thought to be a danger, so the city did an endurance test. They were unable to topple or even shift the Towers, and the test concluded when the crane experienced mechanical failure. Their beauty and strength have given Watts Towers an infamous place in both art history, and the history of the community.
Watts Towers is a California Historical Landmark, and on the National Register of Historic Places. I hope that if you are an LA local or visiting LA, you’ll consider a trip to Watts Towers, I promise this unique piece of art is worth every minute.