With our weather fluctuating between warm and sunny to cold and gray, I would happily redo Spring Break and hop a plane back to California! We had a wonderful trip, flying directly into Oakland, CA, dining with my awesome nephew, driving on to hike in Yosemite National Park, and days later, driving to Los Angeles. Just bumming around with my hubby and our boys is a joy for me...and one I recognize is fleeting as they continue to grow and spread their wings!
As if hiking in Yosemite was not monumental enough, once we settled into L.A., we visited one of my long-admired, funky places, Watts Towers!
Admittedly, Watts is in a questionable neighborhood, but I was so glad to see it honored and protected as the world changes around it. I was tickled that even the neighbors across the street paid homage to this historic relic.
It has been said that Watts Towers is the largest structure ever made by one person. For years, it has been questioned how it fits into the world, Architecture? Yes! Sculpture? Yes! Folk Art? Absolutely! However you classify it...this amazing, tireless effort of one man, Simon Rodia, is a must see! Every section that your eye rests upon tends to pull you in as you discover interesting bits and pieces- shards of pottery, impressions in the cement itself, broken bottles to seashells!
It is amazing when you get up close to examine the towers, which rise to 100 feet and were completely manmade in that no scaffolding, bolts, screws, rivets, welding or even blueprints/plans were used in the construction! Simon scaled to the top of each tower, cement bucket in hand, as he continued to build upward.
HIstory paints a picture of Rodia as a poor, Italian immigrant, known to be a hot head. He was married, with two sons and a daughter, and having worked as a laborer in Seattle, moved to Oakland, California around 1904, where a community of Italian immigrants was growing. Three years later, in 1907, Rodia was unhappy and took to drinking following the death of his daughter, Bel. The marriage dissolved in 1912. From there he moved around the US and returned to California with his third wife, settling into a house on a triangular lot, at the end of a dead end, at 1765 East 107th Street in Watts, CA (between Los Angeles and Long Beach).
A long time laborer and very experienced cement worker, Rodia, 42 years old in 1921, spent every free moment after work and on weekends building his structures. Although he had been in the United States for 26 years at this point, his thick Italian accent made him unable to communicate with neighbors (or others who might have been able to assist with his construction). Sadly, his wife left him, feeling neglected by him due to his unwavering focus on his project.
To visit today, you may take your own tour around the outside of the fenced in structure, or you can pay for an interior tour of the towers. Short on time, we opted out of the interior tour and walked around it after spending some time in the adjacent Art Center which houses information on Rodia and the entire history, as well as a small gallery that exhibits local artists' work.
There is a wonderful book written by Bud Goldstone and Arloa Paquin Goldstone, who knew Simon Rodia personally, entitled, The Los Angeles Watts Towers. I encourage you to check it out for more history on this cherished creation!
What wondrous thing would you create if you donated all of your free time and energy, for thirty four years? Hmmm... I guess I could argue that I am already nineteen years into two of my own wondrous things...I think I will call them the Feinknopf Towers!