watts tower



Compton - Watts, California and The Promise of Watts


Los Angeles--Beyond the riots and social unrest that tore a community apart, imbedding fear into the hearts of Los Angeles, Orange County and California residents who live, work or even drive through this region of Compton to commute, lies a garden of hope. Watts Towers of Simon Rodia State Historic Park, 1765 E. 107th St., Los Angeles, CA


People working in small and large ways to make a difference and enhance their environment have made Watts a place of distinction. Forget the gates that enclose the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Shopping Center at the corner of 103rd Street and Grandee. Designed as a method for “lock down” should another fire be set in an emotionally charged moment seen previously in two riots, there’s a city on the mend.


It looks to its past, present and future in hopes that the community will provide an inheritance for those stepping in and shaping its destiny. With its valuable property not far from the L.A. beaches, Port of Los Angeles, Downtown Los Angeles Civic Area and directly on the Metro Rail Blue Line, Watts has the potential, at minimum, to become the desirable community with increased property values to match surrounding regions. That is how it began in the early 1900's.

Watts is experiencing a Renaissance, thanks in part to Metro Rail and to visionaries such as Wajeha A. Bilal. She is one of the shepherds and ambassadors to this gateway. Involving her family and community in an important task to dedicate the 100-year old 103rd Watts Historical Train Station, she manages the building. With a carved shape of the Red Car on the wall inside, California Operation Lifesaver, Inc., saved the building from destruction. Small kiosks sell souvenir merchandise, soft drinks and snacks here as this historic structure gets in shape for its commemorative dedication.


100 years ago, a blink in time, Southern California had train and electric rail routes that extended from most parts of Los Angeles to the beaches.  Built to attract city residents to the beaches and help developers sell homes in parcels of land sometimes considered swamps, the “Red Car” (named for the train cars painted a rich red hue) was instrumental in greater L.A.’s growth.

The Red Cars were mostly dumped into the Pacific Ocean after the electric line was shut down in the 1930’s as people abandon the rail for road. There are a few Red Cars privately owned and in museums. One sits as a museum in Seal Beach.


Next to the 103rd Watts Historical Train Station sits a sign announcing the future site of the Wattstar Theatre and Education Center sponsored by the Watts Cinema and Education Center, Inc. and designed by Berh Browers Architects Incorporated. Billed as an 80,000 square foot cinema and animation training facility located between Watts Tower and Watts Historic Train Station, the Westlake Village Architectural firm has designed similar projects in Santa Monica and Los Angeles. The company specializes in projects in the entertainment industry. 


Following in the footsteps of Belkin Corporation, a leading manufacturer of connectivity solutions, President/CEO Chet Pipkin decided in 1991 to headquarter the company’s corporate offices in the inner city Compton that includes Watts. His actions initially evoked skepticism. Compton’s lucrative location between the Los Angeles International Airport and two harbors, Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach (which optimizes its logistics efforts), its accompanying low rent, and its accessible work force—where many employees are trained through public programs in warehousing, assembly, and order fulfillment—have further supported Pipkin’s decision. Belkin continues to grow with an in-house industrial design group, R&D team, and offices worldwide.


Where to stay? Watts doesn't have any hotel rooms, per se, as it is a part of L.A. Inglewood hotels are nearby and offer Hampton Inn, plus many more offerings fairly close to LAX.




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