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Located in south Los Angeles, in a community known as Watts, stands a monument to one man's spirit, ingenuity, and determination. Built single-handedly by Simon Rodia over a period of 33 years, the Watts Towers consists of nine major sculptural forms made of steel and covered with mortar embedded with pieces of ceramic tile, pottery shards, sea shells, and broken glass. The tallest tower is nearly 100 feet high and contains the longest slender column of reinforced concrete in the world.

Simon Rodia, also known as Sabato "Sam" Rodia and "Don Simon" by some of his neighbors and visitors, was born in 1879 in the town of Campania in southern Italy. He was sent to America around the age of 12. While growing up in America, Rodia worked in the coal mines of Pennsylvania and eventually moved to the west coast where he married and had two children.

While moving around on the west coast, Rodia worked in rock quarries, logging, and railroad camps as a construction worker. In 1921, he purchased a wedge-shaped plot of land with a house in Watts and began to construct his masterpiece, which he called "Nuestro Pueblo" (meaning "our town").

Without benefit of special equipment, scaffolding, or drawing board designs, Rodia worked alone on his towers using simple tile-setter's tools and a window washer's belt and buckle. From 1921 to 1954, Rodia surrounded his house with three tall sendor towers; a patio; a gazebo containing a circular bench, 3 bird baths, and a spire 38 feet tall; and a structure he called the "Ship of Marco Polo" which has a 28-foot tall spire. All of this is enclosed in walls build by Rodia and decorated with an assortment of embedded objects and materials.

 

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