In the middle of the century, Watts was a prosperous middle-class town. Simon Rodia, an Italian immigrant, had dreams of founding a religiously-grounded community center. The sculptures resulting from Rodia's solitary labor of over 33 years (1921 to 1955) are considered to be one of the greatest work completed by a single individual using simple hand tools and castoff materials (discarded broken glass, sea shells, generic pottery and ceramic tile). The Watts Towers are a complex set of 17 separate sculptural pieces constructed from steel pipes and rods, wrapped with wire mesh, coated with mortar, and embedded with pieces of porcelain, tile and glass. Two of the towers rise to a height of nearly 100 feet. Nowadays, Watts is mostly an African-American community that was at the epicenter of the riots of 1965 and 1992, and where the nearby upscale art center somehow feels out of place, yet some of the tiny houses are attractive microcosm of the American dream.
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