Watts Towers is a famous landmark in the East Bay Hills of Alameda County, California. The tower consists of three parts; an observation tower, a residence for the caretakers and workers, and a studio building where artisans made pottery and other items from clay dug out of nearby Mount Shasta. It is located at 39350 Skyline Boulevard (California) near Clayton, about 30 miles southeast of Oakland. The site was given to the state by local citizens through the agency of the non-profit Save Our Heritage Organization.
The Tower Artisan Center offers regular demonstrations of blacksmithing, woodworking, leathercraft, and other arts and crafts. Visitors can see how raw materials are turned into finished products using techniques dating back hundreds of years. Live snakes, however, are not permitted due to public safety concerns. Over 2 million people visit the park each year to hike, mountain bike, picnic, or just plain ol’ have some fun.
On special occasions, there is even horseback riding stables inside the park. During the summer, concerts are held on the lawns in front of the main lodge most nights until late August. From September through October, the park closes for the season for a major renovation project. When the gates re-open, there will be new trails, improved parking, expanded picnic facilities, updated campgrounds, and more.
In 1934, during the Great Depression, thirty-year-old Simon Rodia moved to Los Angeles with his wife and children. He had previously been born in the village of Aylesworth, England, but immigrated to the United States when he was five years old. His father had emigrated several years before from the same area. With the help of a loan from the Small Business Administration, they were able to buy a two-hundred-acre ranch on Mt. Shasta which they called “Cottage Farm.”
There they built their home, designed by architect George Wyth Memorial, who also created designs for similar homes throughout the region. After his death, his son continued the family tradition, designing many of the buildings that can be seen today at the park. One such design, originally constructed as a garage, became the Tower House. Built between 1935 and 1937, it stands at 65 feet tall, making it one of the tallest structures in Northern California.
The center features live animals including:
which visitors may take home with them after viewing them in what has become known as the Petting Zoo within the park.