An Uprising in Watts We Can All Appreciate.

Watts, a neighborhood in LA, has a reputation among some as a dangerous place. So much so that when we looked up directions and reviews of the Watts towers we were told there is no parking, the neighborhood is dangerous and you should only go there with a paid tour. Don’t believe that.
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I’m not exactly sure what Watts was like in 1921 when Sabato Rodia moved in, but it appears Rodia wasn’t satisfied with the place. Maybe he was bored, or just had a vision, I couldn’t say. But I do know what he did; he built something inspirational.

It was,or rather is, inspirational in that this guy, and really he was just some guy, a construction worker, took it upon himself to do something. If those towers that he built out of scraps and broken things was the result of boredom, awesome. He conquered his boredom.

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If the towers grew out of some aspiration for greatness or achievement, wonderful. He achieved it (the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks). He didn’t contract someone to build him some towers, he didn’t move to somewhere towers already existed, he didn’t sit and pine for towers, he didn’t sit and wallow in boredom, he built towers.

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Not everyone was cool with his towers. Well, mostly the neighborhood was cool with it but the establishment wasn’t. He didn’t have a permit. It would have been hard to apply for a permit especially since he had no plans before or during the building. He just kind of built it. He built over a span of 33 years. 33 years to build a complex system of concrete and re-bar towers standing 99 feet in the air.

The City of Los Angeles ordered the towers torn down.

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But he didn’t do it. He persisted in not tearing down the towers till he was too old to argue and he simply “quit” the property and moved away. In 1959 a couple of actors bought the place with the intent of preserving it. LA is a town that respects its actors and by the late 50’s the whole world knew about these things, they were already icons.

They still stand.

They are there and they are worth going to see. Ignore the online whimpering from people who think there are parts of town that simply can’t be visited. The towers have survived there this whole time, you can survive an hour.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “An Uprising in Watts We Can All Appreciate.

  1. Reminds me of Fuster’s work in Cuba. We visited him and saw his amazing place. It too should no be missed if in Cuba… http://havana-cultura.com/en/visual-arts/jose-fuster

  2. Uglyblackjohn

    I think every Southern California kid has taken a school field trip there coupled with Olvera St.. Back in the day schools seemed to want to make sure that everyone’s culture was represented in the curriculum.

    • So far the kids have visited San Juan Capistrano, Cal State San Bernardino, and a farm on field trips. I don’t think people who live where I live ever go to Watts.

      • Uglyblackjohn

        Man, I grew up in the Canyon Crest area of Riverside and we were bussed to the ‘ghetto schools’. Our field trips were better funded, I guess. Japanese Village was down the street from Knott’s, the trips to the tide pools in Laguna and the rest of the day was spent at the beach at Corona Del Mar, Bogart Part to learn about ecology, week long sixth grade sleepover camp up near Big Bear, and then all of our gifted and talented trips (Marineland, Catalina Island, Claremont Cluster immersion, Friday local history trips, …) It seems that learning was thought to better taught by experience.

      • I believe the schools near me believe learning is best taught by standardized tests.

  3. Wow! Gaudí would be stunned! That’s quite an accomplishment.

    Great photos and prose, as always.

  4. Uglyblackjohn

    While you’re visiting places we used to on our school field trips – check out the La Brea tar pits.

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