Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Rediscovering Echo Park’s ‘Avenue of the Athletes’


Avenue of the Athletes | Barry Lank

ECHO PARK — Los Angeles’ little-known Avenue of the Athletes — the sports version of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame — is given a fresh profile by author David Davis for Zocalo. He sheds more light on the man responsible for the endeavor.

Residents of Echo Park may have walked along the Avenue of the Athletes hundreds of times, possibly without knowing it. Sunset Boulevard between Elysian Park Boulevard and Alvarado Street was officially declared the Avenue of the Athletes back in 1974. Along this stretch, you will find 32 little bronze plaques with the names of sports figures, most of whom bore some connection to Los Angeles. These include:

  • Former Lakers player and Clippers manager Elgin Baylor, on a plaque in front of Rodeo Mexican Grill
  • Jesse Owens, in front of Mitch O’Farrell’s office
  • Sandy Koufax, in front of LG Fresh Food Market
  • Jackie Robinson, by the Walgreens parking lot

We owe these plaques to a man named L. Andrew Castle, who owned a couple of camera shops and worked as a photographer for the Dodgers after they moved here from Brooklyn in 1958. With permission from the city and backing from the Dodgers, he got bronze plaques installed in the sidewalks starting in 1976.

Unfortunately, Castle died two years later, and his wife shortly after that. Momentum for the project largely stopped. The last plaques were laid in 1985 — including one for Castle himself near Logan Street, at the location of one of his camera stores.  Fred Claire, former general manager of the Dodgers, told Davis:

“Did the Avenue of the Athletes fulfill Andy Castle’s dream? No, but at least he had a dream.”
— Fred Claire, former general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers

jackie robinson

avenue of the athletes echo park

Screenshot 2015-12-10 at 3.10.51 PM

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One comment

  1. I note, Castle was the one who pushed it, but it was done as a project of the Echo Park Chamber of Commerce. The idea was to promote the shopping district.

    I’m not so sure about that 1974 date, that is dubious. I know the program did not get going until several years after that, at the end of the 1970s. If that was declared the Avenue of the Athletes before they even had the Chamber program for it, then they got the cart before the horse.

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