As far as parks are concerned, you can’t get much smaller than Simon Rodia State Historic Park. From the ground level, it’s easily missed — the park takes up only a 1/10-acre of land and is sandwiched between two main boulevards and several single-family residences in South Los Angeles’ Watts neighborhood.
But what this park lacks in surface area, it makes up for in height. It’s home to Watts Towers, a series of nine sculptures — the tallest of which rises almost 100 feet — and the title of the largest folk art structure constructed by one individual in the world.
Although the structures themselves are visually impressive, the history of this installation (and its creator) is equally as fascinating and brings to life the common adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
The towers, which were constructed between 1921 and 1955, were built by LA resident Sabato “Sam” Rodia, an Italian immigrant who, for 33 years, worked to erect the towers by hand and without help from his family, friends or neighbors. Constructed from structural steel and mortar, the art installation is heavily adorned with discarded bottles, broken dishes, old kitchen tiles, cooking utensils, seashells and more, creating a kaleidoscope of color against an (almost) eternally blue LA sky.
Tourists visiting the attraction — located about 45 minutes from downtown Los Angeles — can pay $7 per person for exclusive access to the towers and a 30-minute tour. Guests can also browse the adjacent Arts Center, which has merchandise for sale; shows a 12-minute documentary on Rodia’s life; and features rotating art exhibitions in the adjacent Noah Purifoy Gallery. The Arts Center hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Tours are offered every 30 minutes until 3:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.