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

A north-facing 2013 view of Astro Park. (Source: Google Earth; fair use)

The Saucer, now removed along with its concrete pediment. Note the plaque on the right-hand side. Pigeons forage where the current entrance is today at the stone circle's southernmost point. Photo copyright a2zumac, used with permission [date?]


The circle first got a rocket climbing structure in 1967, 1 then in March 1968, the flying saucer was installed. It was designed by Gordon Mortenson of the park department, and created from an old boiler by Mortenson, Bob Schultz, and welder Don Woodford. 2

Astro Circle was formally dedicated “to imagineers young and old” on April 25, 1968, a joint venture of the Oakland Park Department and the Kiwanis Club which donated $1,500 to the project. 3 The Native Daughters of the Golden West donated for a drinking fountain, a memorial to Emily C. Lawson. 4

long-gone dedication plaque
Courtesy Oakland History Room of the Oakland Public Library
It 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 (supposedly 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, a futuristic spacecraft that sat atop a castellated concrete pediment 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 90s. 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 still well-used these days, although most of the trees are gone, the playground is covered with that ground-up, bouncy rubber, and everything has been brought in for maximum safety and modern ideas of what kinds of stimulation little kids need. Sigh. However, the Moon Cheese dome is still clambered upon by today's youngest generation, free to imagine themselves in space.

The Saucer

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

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.

Links and References

  1. 'Rockets, Saucers' At Park Oakland Tribune November 1, 1967
  2. Playground Gets A Flying Saucer Oakland Tribune March 22, 1968
  3. 'Saucer' Greeted At Playland Pad Oakland Tribune March 27, 1968
  4. Flying Saucers? Well, in Oakland--- Oakland Tribune April 24, 1968