By Bud Goldstone and Arloa Paquin Goldstone
The Watts Towers, located in south-central Los Angeles, are the monumental work of one man: Simon Rodia. Born in Italy about 1879, Rodia immigrated to the United States when he was 15. In 1921 he purchased a triangular lot at the end of a dead-end Los Angeles street, alongside a railroad track. For the next 30 years he worked single-handedly—without machine equipment, scaffolding, bolts, rivets, welds, or drawing-board designs—to build the 17 sculptures that constitute the Watts Towers. Construction worker by day and artist by night, the unschooled Rodia adorned his towers with a mosaic of broken glass, shells, pottery, and tiles. The tallest of the towers stands just under 100 feet.
After Rodia moved away in 1955, the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety ordered the towers demolished, but a group of citizens—including Bud Goldstone—fought successfully to save them. Five years later they were designated a cultural heritage monument by the City of Los Angeles, and since 1986 they have been the subject of a conservation effort involving city employees, the GCI, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
The Los Angeles Watts Towers recounts the story of Rodia and his creation, as well as the history of the Watts area. Other chapters discuss Rodia's building techniques and materials, as well as the conservation efforts under way at the site. Visitors to the towers and the armchair traveler alike will enjoy this in-depth look at Rodia and his singular creation.
Bud Goldstone has been involved in the preservation of Simon Rodia's Watts Towers since 1959, an endeavor that has called upon his 40 years of experience as an engineer. Arloa Paquin Goldstone has been engaged in historic preservation issues in Los Angeles since 1970 and authored the successful proposal to add the towers to the list of national historic landmarks, a distinction awarded in 1990.
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