|THE WATTS TOWERS|
This week's arts and culture column is about what may be the tallest piece of folk art in the world: L.A.'s own Watts Towers.
The piece begins:
Mystery surrounds L.A.’s Watts Towers, starting with the name of the passionate visionary who built them — Simon Rodilla, Sabato “Sam” Rodia, Don Simon? — and continuing to his exact whereabouts from 1910-1918, the number of years he worked on the towers (33 or 34?), and the forces that drove him.
A self-taught laborer, Rodia was born in Italy in 1875 (1879?) and came to the United States at the age of 15.
He worked the coal mines in Pennsylvania until a mining accident claimed his brother, then made his way to Seattle where he married and had three children. The marriage collapsed in 1912, possibly due to Rodia’s then-active alcoholism. After working as an itinerant day laborer for several years, he migrated to Los Angeles and bought a wedge-shaped piece of land in the working-class neighborhood of Watts, near the railroad tracks.
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