|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
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