Time Frame: The Watts Towers, 50 Years Ago and Today

The L.A. County Museum of Art will help restore Simon Rodia’s landmark assemblage

A year after the riots in Watts, Life magazine devoted 26 pages to the beleaguered neighborhood. Photographer Bill Ray and a reporter spent two months meeting residents, capturing park rallies, and receiving the occasional threat, including an attack on their car with a baseball bat. A 1966 image of a group of teens at the Watts Towers (inset) never made it into the photo-essay. The landmark assemblage by Simon Rodia still draws visitors, but community leaders were alarmed when three city workers in charge of its maintenance were let go in 2011 because of budget cuts. Concern has grown over the artwork’s condition. The city contracted with the L.A. County Museum of Art to restore the site, at an estimated cost of $5 million, and fund-raising is under way.