A Brief History of the Watts Towers is a book in Wasteland 2.
A handwritten collection of notes that tell the story of Rodia.
""I wanted to do something big and I did it."" – Simon Rodia
Sabato ""Simon"" Rodia was born February 12, 1879 in Serino, Italy. He and his brother emigrated to the United States in 1895, both settling in Pennsylvania and working in the coal mines until his brother died.
Little is known about Simon's life during this period except that he moved to the West Coast, spending time in Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco, Martinez, El Paso and finally Long Beach, California. He worked at construction sites and doing odd jobs for logging and railroad camps to make ends meet.
Rodia is remembered for the most famous piece of folk art in the United States: the Watts Towers or Towers of Rodia or – as he called them – Nuestro Pueblo, ""Our Town.""
Simon Rodia purchased a triangular-shaped lot at 1761-1765 107th Street in Los Angeles in 1921 and slowly started to construct his masterpiece. It would not reach completion until 33 years later in 1954. In this time Rodia worked alone with simple tools, with no special equipment or predetermined design. When he was done there stood a collection of 17 interconnected steel sculptures, the tallest reaching a height of almost 100 feet.
The sculptures were constructed from steel rebar and concrete, wrapped with wire mesh, the supports embedded with pieces of porcelain, tile and glass. Rodia decorated the towers with found objects, including bottles, figurines, mirrors and more. He would use broken pottery brought by local children, or green glass from soft drink bottles he collected. Rodia collected most materials himself, walking a wide radius to pick up scrap rebar and other raw materials.
When the work was done Simon Rodia moved to Martinez, California, where he died on July 17, 1965.
Soon after, the City of Los Angeles condemned his old bungalow and lot and was looking to demolish it, but Actor Nicholas King and film editor William Cartwright visited the site in 1959 and decided to save them. To challenge the City's assertion that the structures were unsafe, they were stress-tested on October 10, 1959. Steel cables were attached to each tower with a crane exerting lateral force to try and topple it. But the cranes were unable to topple or even move the tower.
By the 1970s the City had started working with a local committee to preserve and make public this unique piece of folk art. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
Since then, the Watts Towers have been in need of care and conservation to maintain the more sensitive parts of the edifice, but the main steel structures have withstood many quakes better than the buildings around them, and will stand for many years more - a monument to what a single man can do with nothing but willpower.
--Johannes van Graas, May 18, 2096