It snowed a bit in La Grande this week – any excuse to post a picture of the Grand Staircase in winter (this one from January 1978 courtesy EOU Pierce Library).
The Grand Staircase at Eastern Oregon University was designed by Oregon architect John Bennes and completed in 1929. Sadly, it has deteriorated over the decades and was closed to public use in 2004.
In 2015, the Grand Staircase was added to Restore Oregon’s Most Endangered Places List. In November of that year it was determined that the staircase was too far deteriorated for restoration to be a viable option, however efforts are underway to fund reconstruction.
We believe that the Grand Staircase has great potential as a cultural heritage tourism attraction and, as a result, could help boost the economy of La Grande and eastern Oregon. Even now, deteriorating and no longer opened to the public, it is an architectural treasure worth seeing. Reconstructed it could offer even more.
We started this blog and the accompanying Facebook page to raise awareness of the Grand Staircase and its architectural significance, post photographs and information of historical interest about the staircase, provide updates on the efforts to save our beloved “college steps” and share the stories and memories of those who love the staircase as much as we do.
To see a pictorial history of the staircase please visit our About page.
If you have any questions or have Grand Staircase memories, stories, or photos you would like to share please contact us at email@example.com.
After we shared the photo of the Grand Staircase in winter we heard from several of you who remembered that when it snowed, 8th Street hill was often too slick to climb up or down so the staircase was the route (albeit also a bit slippery) that you took to class.
The “college steps” and the “college hill” seem irrevocably linked in many people’s minds. Both a part of the Eastern Oregon University campus, they share the same slope and are just a short block apart. In the past they provided an entrance to the university – as one EOU alum put it “one part functional, two parts charming”.
The photo below (courtesy of EOU Pierce Library) was taken in January of 1978 at the bottom of the hill before the college became Eastern Oregon University. You can see the staircase in the background.
Our post reminded many others of what fun it was to sled down 8th Street using everything from traditional sleds to cafeteria trays to cookie sheets to make the run.
This photo (courtesy of the EOU Pierce Library) was taken in 1977 during the “8th Street Carnival” sponsored by the Campus Charismatics.
In this photo (courtesy of the EOU Pierce Library) students gather behind Inlow Hall to ski on the hillside next to the Grand Staircase (you can see the top railing of the staircase to the left). It was taken between 1945 and 1955. Note the seasonal reindeer sweater on one of the skiers and the volunteer Christmas tree behind them!
We’ll be back next year with more Grand Staircase-related photos, history, stories, information, and memories as well as updates on the restoration efforts.
With the first day of winter just around the corner, we wanted to share this photo (courtesy of the EOU Pierce Library) of the Grand Staircase in winter. It was taken in 1977. We love how the snow accentuates the architectural details of the balustrades and balusters – like frosting on a cake.