Guys, I think I’ve found my favorite.
There are so many things I want to tell you about these towers. I guess I’ll start where the tour guide started with me: these towers comprise the largest artistic structure ever created by a single person in the history of the entire world.
The artist who created them, Simon Rodia, was about 4 feet, 10 inches tall. These towers took him 34 years to build. After 34 years, he simply stopped working — no one is sure if the towers were finished at this time, but it’s clear that Simon certainly was.
He used no scaffolding, nothing to protect himself while he climbed the towers to complete them, save one of those belts that window washers use.
The towers were constructed from a mixture of cement, sand, and concrete, and they were decorated with tiles, old plates and teacups, glass bottles, soda cans, seashells — any discarded glass, tile, or ceramic object he could find.
(look at the little rose designs on some of the plates in here…so pretty, I can’t even be my normal sarcastic self. You win this time, Simon Rodia.)
As you may know, California has seen many nasty earthquakes in its day. Naturally, a structure like this one was bound to raise someone’s eyebrows at some point, and so years after its completion, it was put to an earthquake test. They hooked up a crane to several parts of the middle of one tower and then pulled with 10,000 tons of weight….until finally the crane began to fall, not the towers.
The tour guide was one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. He grew up alongside the towers and he used to play on them as a child, before they were put behind giant white gates, to protect them.
He knew absolutely everything about them. I could tell that even though he’s probably given hundreds, maybe even thousands of tours, recited the same memorized facts, answered the same questions over and over again, he isn’t tired of any of it, at all. He seemed as entranced as we all were, gawking over every little shard of tile, every piece of a soda can whose name we recognized (lots of 7up and Mountain Dew), every line of every design carved into the cement ground that Simon Rodia paved by hand, all alone, for 34 years.
The grounds on which the towers stand were what used to be Simon Rodia’s backyard. There are three towers in a line down the middle, with smaller structures spread out sporadically around them, and everything is enclosed in tall, cement walls. He shaped the entire structure to look like a ship, to parallel a myth from his home country, Italy. One of the gazebo structures in the center is said to strongly resemble a structure from Naples, which he probably would have been familiar with during his childhood, before he moved to the states.
(Here you can see the ship-like shape, as well as the other two people on my tour, and our tour guide, on the back right)
He decorated the outside of the wall that faced the street, giving it a front door and mailbox and address and covering everything in his haphazard tilework, so that his house had what was and still is probably the prettiest curb appeal in the country, if not the world.
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