Bud Goldstone (Watts Towers engineer) dies at 89

This has been a tough few months for the folk art world, Mr. Imagination, Ronald Manolio (Eggshelland), Ronald Cooper, Rev. Dennis (Margaret’s Grocery), and now NJ “Bud” Goldstone – the engineer who fought city hall to save Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts (Los Angeles, CA).
Bud would send emails every few months, keeping me apprised of the latest news and encouraging me on with Detour Art. His signature really said it all:

“Bud Goldstone; OSU, Purdue Aero Engr; AIC Pro. Assoc.-retired; Apollo Engineering, ‘The Los Angeles Watts Towers’, pub by Getty Museum & Conservation Institute; “Secrets of Watts Towers”; SPACES Archives” 

N.J. “Bud” Goldstone was a professional engineer and member of the Committee for Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts, Inc. In 1959, he designed and executed an engineering test that proved the Towers’ structural safety. The bulk of the collection consists of Goldstone’s detailed photographs and negatives of the Towers, documenting a restoration project completed between 1994 and 2002. The collection also includes the original 1959 structural integrity report and test plan, a set of microfiche from the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, and additional photographic materials. 

Simon Rodia’s Towers were constructed between 1921 and 1955 in the Watts area of Los Angeles. Built single-handedly by Rodia, an Italian immigrant, the Towers consist of an elaborate walled enclosure containing seventeen sculptures of thin steel members covered with mortar. The sculptures’ surfaces are decorated with a mosaic of tiles, glass shards and objects. 

Rodia deeded the property to a neighbor in 1955 when he left Los Angeles to live in the Northern California town of Martinez. After 1955, the towers were neglected and fell into disrepair. The City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety determined the Towers were a public safety hazard in 1957 and ordered their demolishment. 

The Committee for Simon Rodia’s Towers in Watts, Inc. (CSRTW) was immediately formed in an attempt to save the Towers. After a demolition hearing, the City agreed to a lateral stress test, spearheaded by aerospace engineer N.J. “Bud” Goldstone, at the Committee’s expense.

On October 10, 1959, Goldstone executed a successful proof-load test, demonstrating the Towers’ structural stability. Goldstone continued to serve as a member and an officer of CSRTW from 1960 to 1970, and worked to advance the issue of preserving and restoring the Towers through the 1990s.

In 1975, the Committee, which had preserved the Towers independently for 16 years, gave the Towers and Art Center to the City of Los Angeles for operation and maintenance. In 1978, the Towers were deeded to the State of California. The State undertook an extensive restoration project, but in 1985, responsibility for the Towers was again assumed by the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department. Repair to damage caused in the 1994 Northridge earthquake was commenced in 1995 and completed in 2001. The Towers are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and are the location of cultural programs.

(from http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt2z09q28w/ photos courtesy of Randy Mason and Mike Murphy, Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations)