Personally, I have always been a sucker for the work of a lone, crazy guy that creates something completely wild and new out of trash. From Edward Leedskalnin’s Coral Castle to Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain, there really is no limit to what one man with a bunch of junk and crazy idea can get done. Sabato (“Simon”) Rodia was just this sort of crazed artist. His monument to something (is it a giant boat pointing to Italy? A wedding chapel for his next wife?) is an extraordinary amalgamation of used rebar, concrete and junk. And the older the Watts tower gets the more interesting the junk becomes:
Beyond a sentimental love of old junk, there really is something inspiring about the way Rodia used things around him as molds and reliefs for his masterwork. Check out these vintage tools and corn holders pressed and molded with concrete:
The other impressive thing about the Watts Tower is how Rodia wasn’t afraid to go vertical. When he was working on his Towers Los Angeles was a much flatter city then it is today (or ever will be in the future) and the natural instinct in a vast city like Los Angeles is to spread horizontally. But by going vertical, Rodia made a bolder statement as his Towers literally pierce the vast Western sky.
Most of Rodia’s monument was salvaged from the nearby train tracks and by walking the 20 miles down the train tracks to Long Beach and collecting shells and trash along the way. People in the neighborhood used to bring ceramics for Rodia to use in his giant sculpture. In that way this monument was created by the city of Los Angeles as reflected through the hands of one crazy dude.