February 12, 1879|
Serino, Avellino, Italy
|Died||July 17, 1965
Martinez, California, U.S.
|Other names||Simon, Sam|
|Known for||Watts Towers|
Rodia was born and raised in Serino, Italy. In 1895, aged 15, he emigrated to the United States with his brother. Rodia lived in Pennsylvania until his brother died in a mining incident. He then moved to Seattle, Washington, where he married Lucia Ucci in 1902. They soon moved to Oakland, where Rodia's three children were born. Following his divorce about 1909, he moved to Long Beach and worked at odd jobs before finally settling in Watts in 1920.
Rodia began constructing the Watts Towers in 1921, but did not complete them until 1954. They were frequently vandalized by neighbors, and Rodia gave this as the reason he moved to Martinez, where he remained until his death in 1965. It is believed that Rodia never returned to Watts after moving to Martinez.
A photograph of Simon Rodia is included on the cover of the Beatles' album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, released in 1967. The public Simon Rodia Continuation High School in Watts is named for him. In the Dark Skies episode "Burn, Baby, Burn", Rodia is depicted as being inspired by an alien encounter. Later in the episode, the towers serve as a plot device.
- There has been some question as to what Rodia was called during his lifetime; some sources have cited that his birth name was "Sabatino" and it is disputed as to if he was called "Simon" during his lifetime. It is widely known and accepted that he was referred to as "Sam" by close friends, and he appears in the U.S. Census returns as Samuel Rodia. His surname has also been misspelled as "Rodella" or "Rodilla".
- About Sam Rodia - The watts Towers — official site
- The Social Security Death Index uses 15 April 1886. Other reference works use 1873, 1875, and 1879.
- US Census 25 April 1910, Oakland, California, supervisors District 3, enumerators district 21, sheet 16
- Big Orange Landmarks -- No. 15 - Towers of Simon Rodia.
- "Simon Rodia, 90, Builder of Famed Watts Towers, Dies in Martinez". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-03-19.
Simon Rodia, 90, Italian born tile setter who built the controversial Watts Towers here to express his appreciation for his adopted country, died Saturday in ...
- Photo documentary of Watts Towers at Blurrylens.com
- Art Junction site on the Watts Towers
- PBS article
- Simon Rodia - Great Buildings Online
- Watts Towers web site—photo of Simon Rodia.
- Simon Rodia at Find a Grave
- Rodia's Watts Towers - Photo documentary of the towers and the ruins of Rodia's house, with new biographical information.