That’s a lot…

Did you know that the Grand Staircase is made up of 17,470 SF of concrete?

Some of the Grand Staircase components were cast or poured in place from concrete that was brought to the site in an unhardened state (like ready-mix) and then put in forms. They include the steps, landings, balustrade piers and retaining walls.

Other components were made of cast stone.  These include the balusters, baluster caps and pier caps.  The original cast stone was created (using the dry tamp process) in two layers – an inner concrete core and a more refined outer finish. The core is cast around reinforcing steel. The finish is a rosy beige fine grain aggregate mixed with quartz. Individual units were tied to cast-in-place components and to each other with steel anchors, pins, and rods.

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.

The staircase is currently included on Restore Oregon’s Most Endangered Places List.  In November of 2015 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 savethegrandstaircase@gmail.com.

 

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Three ways, three functions…

Remember the 418 balusters we talked about in our last post?  Did you know that there are three different ways of installing them in the staircase – each meeting a different architectural need?

148 of them are horizontal.

Horizonal baluster Horizontal baluster cap

212 of them are angled.

Angled baluster Angled baluster cap

And 58 of them are curved.

Curved balusters Curved baluster cap

Now you know.

Baluster smallBaluster smallBaluster small

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.

The staircase is currently included on Restore Oregon’s Most Endangered Places List.  In November of 2015 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 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, 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 savethegrandstaircase@gmail.com.

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Was the Staircase an “Aha” Moment? – Part Two

In our last post we raised the question of how the Grand Staircase came to be.  After “Courthouse Hill” was chosen in April of 1927 as the location for the new Eastern Oregon Normal School (now EOU), how, when, and why did architect John Bennes decide to fill the hillside below what is now Inlow Hall with this architectural treasure?

To answer this question we perused 1927 – 1929 microfilm copies of the La Grande Observer.  Here is what we found….

  • The Grand Staircase may or may not have been a part of the original plans. None of the 1927 and early 1928 articles we read make any mention of steps or stairs of any kind.
  •  Instead, they speak of constructing a boulevard (approximately 16 feet wide) that would run around the brow of the hill from Eighth Street to a point to be determined.
  •  They talk in detail about the main building and mention a library, an athletic field, tennis courts, and a shallow lake south of the hill.  (We wonder what happened to this lake!)
  •  A March 19, 1928 article reports that Prof Peck, Oregon State College landscaping artist calls the site “beautiful” with “remarkable possibilities”. He does not seem to have brought up the topic of steps.
  •  A July 19, 1928 article reveals that the center of the building (now Inlow) would face directly down Ninth Street and it was expected that “the main approach for pedestrians will be on Ninth Street to the foot of the hill”. There is no mention of how these pedestrians might get from the bottom of the hill to the top!

The structure

  • Finally, in an article published September 21, 1928 (a year and a half after the site had been chosen) we found the first hint of a staircase.  The story details the progress that had been made on construction and includes the following paragraph…

 “It (Inlow Hall) will be a splendid addition to the city from a scenic standpoint, for it is situated on a bluff with a magnificent view of town and surrounding country.  It is to be finished in cream stucco with a red tile roof.  Many steps will lead up to its front door from the street below.”

 Of course some would consider “many steps” as a somewhat vague description of what would eventually be the Grand Staircase.  Did Bennes have a completed design of the staircase by then, or was it still just an idea on his drawing board?

Perhaps his initial thought was something resembling the historic (and lovely) 77 Steps at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas…

77 steps

…or perhaps he already knew just how grand the staircase would be.

We’ll tell you more next time…

To read more about the staircase and why it needs saving go to our About page here.

If you have any questions or have Grand Staircase memories, stories, or photos you would like to share please contact us at savethegrandstaircase@gmail.com.

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Before and after…

Before…

Before

After…

After

If only we could thank these men…

thank these men

All photos in this post are courtesy of the EOU Pierce Library.  The “after” and construction photos were taken in 1927/28.  The staircase was completed in 1929.

 

To read more about the staircase and why it needs saving go to our About page here.

If you have any questions or have Grand Staircase memories, stories, or photos you would like to share please contact us at savethegrandstaircase@gmail.com .

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