On April 8, 2010, historians, archivists, city officials, book lovers and John Fante’s family gathered at the intersection of 5th and Grand, outside the Central Library, to unveil a street sign designating the spot John Fante Square. (Video of the ceremony.)
The path to civic recognition began in Spring 2009, when Esotouric’s Richard Schave, host of an annual bus and walking tour dedicated to Fante’s lost downtown, petitioned City Councilwoman Jan Perry to honor the author with a Square.
“John Fante is internationally famous for his writing about downtown Los Angeles–there is simply no other author who more closely associated with Bunker Hill in its heyday than this young Colorado transplant who soaked up the stories of the neighborhood and brought them to life in the classics Ask the Dust (1939; made into a film starring Salma Hayek and Colin Farrell in 2006) and Dreams from Bunker Hill (1982).
Each year, a John Fante Festival is held in the Italian town of Torricella Peligna, where Fante’s father was born. His books are among the most popular fiction titles bought and borrowed by downtown Los Angeles residents. In his fiction, he writes eloquently about visiting the Central Library as a poor young man who lived on Bunker Hill and couldn’t afford to buy books, and many years later, the writer Charles Bukowski, whose East Hollywood home was recently named a Cultural-Historic Monument, wrote beautifully about discovering Fante’s books in the same downtown library and finding inspiration for his own stories about Los Angeles.
John Fante’s work has long been better known in Europe than in America, but recently it has been experiencing a local upswing. April 2009 marks the centennial of Fante’s birth, which was celebrated with a sold-out Zocolo lecture panel at the Hammer Museum organized and hosted by the National Endowment for the Arts’ Director of Literature David Kipen. At the lecture, representatives from UCLA announced that they have just purchased the John Fantearchives from his family, and added it to the Charles E. Young Research Library Department of Special Collections, where it is held along with papers and books by other authors associated with Los Angeles, including Raymond Chandler (‘The Big Sleep’), Nathanael West (‘Day of the Locust’) and Horace McCoy (‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’).
I appreciate your consideration of the request to name the corner of 5th and Grand, at the foot of John Fante’s beloved Bunker Hill and beside his beloved library, John Fante Square. This is a distinction that would attract international attention and many visitors, as Raymond Chandler Square does for Hollywood today. – Richard Schave”
After many public presentations and community meetings on the topic, Councilwoman Perry accepted Richard’s proposal and put it to Council vote. John Fante Square was approved, and officially designated on what would have been the author’s 101st birthday. Following the ceremony, friends, fans and family took a walking tour of what remains of Fante’s downtown Los Angeles.
In April 2021, Esotouric presented John Fante’s Bunker Hill and Downtown Los Angeles Literary Time Machine, a webinar, which can be viewed on-demand.