Treasures in Watts

See the famous Watts Towers in Simon Rodia State Historic Park

Woman looking at the Watts Towers in LA County

Located within Simon Rodia State Historic Park, the famous Watts Towers are an outdoor sculpture exhibit within an enclosed triangular field. The impressive folk art structures, 17 in total, are a testament and homage to the spirited and diverse history of Watts, from City revitalization and riots, to racial unity and community resilience.

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The towers were built by Sabato “Simon” Rodia, an Italian immigrant who lived in Watts over a 30+ year period (1921-1955) when it was very racially diverse. Watts had the highest population of African Americans (14%) in California when Simon Rodia first moved there. Over the years, he produced multiple structures from steel and concrete and wire mesh, decorating them with randomly found items—tiles, glass, shells, and more. An amphitheater surrounds the towers, with tributes to various musicians and plaques providing background information.

The Watts Towers have earned a parade of eminent designations: National Historic Landmark, a listing on the National Register of Historic Places, a State of California Historic Park, and a designation as a Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Monument. The Watts Towers Arts Center is currently closed due to Covid precautions, but keep it on your radar for a future visit.

BONUS EAT & DRINK: Nearby Watts Coffee House (1827 E 103 St.) offers some soul-warming takeout (they also cater). Owner and chef Desiree Edwards has created a menu of many mouthwatering options, including Fried Applefantastic biscuits and sweet-savory dishes like Charlie the Brother Brown (Louisiana beef hotlinks, 2 eggs, signature waffles, and warm maple syrup). Watts Coffee House revives a historic space for Black artists and activists post Watts Rebellion (1965).

Story and photos by Breonna Carter, @mountainsquake.

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