Los Angeles’ Watts Towers, the soaring spires Sabato (Sam) Rodia spent more than 30 years building, have been declared a national landmark, officials said Tuesday.
Rodia, an unschooled Italian immigrant, used pliers, a hammer and wire clippers to build what critics regard as an act of visionary architecture.
Once threatened with demolition, the structures at 1765 E. 107th St. are now undergoing extensive restoration. Watts Towers’ designation as a national landmark will qualify it for various federal funds and private grants it may not have been able to attract before, said John Outterbridge , director of the Watts Towers Arts Center.
“We here on site are very happy,” Outterbridge said. “We always felt that the Watts Towers, like the Watts community, has been nationally prominent for many, many years. Residents of this community who have been caretakers (of the towers) for years are due just this kind of prominence.”
The designation of the Watts Towers as a national landmark by Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan Jr. increases the focus on the structures “as a national treasure,” Outterbridge said.
Rodia’s hand-made masterpiece is an amalgam of broken bottles, pottery shards, seashells and bits of iron held together by chicken wire smeared with ordinary builder’s cement.