The Watts Towers’ perpetual state of crisis


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Luisa Del Giudice, a scholar who’s hosting an October UCLA conference on the Watts Towers, is quoted by my colleague, Hector Tobar, repeating an awful truth: ‘The towers are so fragile, we’ve been forced to save them over and over again.’

The Watts Towers have been in a perpetual state of crisis for more than half a century. Sabato (sometimes called Simon or Sam) Rodia might have crafted one of the most powerful works of 20th-century American art, but its light is typically hidden under a bushel.


A major reason is that, to most people in Los Angeles, they’re out of sight, out of mind. Here’s a small example of the problem.

The last time I went there, about a month ago, I took a different route than usual to 107th Street. In the past I’ve always taken the 110 Freeway to Century Boulevard, then turned down Compton Avenue or Wilmington Avenue. This time I continued on the 110 to the 105 Freeway, taking MapQuest’s advice and exiting on Wilmington. Even though I was looking, nowhere on the 105 did I notice signage that would tell me I was about 10 blocks away from an astounding national treasure. Maybe I missed it, but if it was there it wasn’t prominent enough.

Rodia may have formally named his monumental structure ‘Nuestro Pueblo,’ but sometimes you’d never know that ‘our town’ has anything to do with it. Ten blocks and light years away.

Tobar’s column on the Watts Towers is here. The California State Parks website, with a map, is here.

-- Christopher Knight


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