Astro Circle is, or was, the name of a play area located in Eastshore Park, adjacent to the Lakeview Branch Library.

A north-facing 2013 view of Astro Park shows its obscured, though not yet effaced, moon structure. (Source: Google Earth; fair use)

photo copyright a2zumac, used with permission


Astro Circle was dedicated “to imagineers young and old” in April 1968, a joint venture of the Oakland Park Departmente and the Kiwanis Club:

long-gone dedication plaque
Courtesy Oakland History Room of the Oakland Public Library

Why should we care today about what used to be there?

Well, that was one badass play area! (Allow us our sentimental reasons.) The place was thematically coherent (having a sort of Googie “Jetsons” feel), with interesting landscape architecture. Inside its perimeter, ringed by large stone blocks (reportedly Indiana sandstone, brought “around the horn” and originally used for Oakland High School’s old building), sweeping, curved concrete paths lead here and there in ways interesting to children at play. Tree-shaded from the start, the play area was liberally furnished with metal structures, including a large swing set (at least eight seats); a slide; a “Moon Cheese” climbing structure, and a rocket capsule. But its crown jewel – what every true Oaklander of a certain age remembers – was the Saucer, an alien spacecraft that sat atop a little artificial hill on the park’s south side.

Someone could and probably should do a dissertation on how American public play structures have had all the fun bled out of them, and use this place as a case study! But this isn’t just me gum-flappin’: one can already turn on historical imagery in Google Earth, and watch its “dangerous” trees melt away just since the 90’s. However, in fairness, while the park was designed to serve a wider age range – kids up through about middle school – today it has been retooled to aim squarely at toddlers (reflecting the area’s changing demographics).

Astro Circle today

Astro Circle itself is pretty quiet these days. The trees are gone, the playground is covered with that ground-up, bouncy rubber, and everything has been brought in for maximum safety and protection from litigation. Sigh.

The Saucer

See amazing pictures of the saucer being removed in 2000 here. Read the story here.

The saucer has been relocated to the 5th Avenue Marina where it is now part of a lovely piece of art.

the current saucer via twitter

But at least it’s right next to the site of a long-debated, controversial dog park.