You can see the whole thing!

Just before Christmas some of you may have seen this short article in the La Grande The Observer.

At least some of the work had already been done when we posted this “frosting on the Grand Staircase” photo on Facebook on December 14.

Now, compare the photo above to the one below that we shared in October (just after the removal of the arborvitae in front).

You can see that the upper tiers are now fully visible and, for the first time in years and years, you can see the entire staircase.  When the whole structure is visible, the beauty is amplified.   We love the progress that is being made in showcasing the beauty of this architectural treasure.

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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The Grand Staircase gets a haircut…

You know when you just know that it’s time for a haircut?  Your bangs are a bit too long and hide your face, your ends are split or uneven or your style is just so last century?

That’s what happened with the Grand Staircase this week.  In order to complete the laser scan we wrote about awhile back it was necessary to clear away some of the overgrowth to provide clear scanning access to the entire structure.   EOU’s facilities crew did a great job and the work also included additional cleanup, pruning and removal of the arborvitae which have been in front of the staircase for decades and decades and had grown so tall that they hid part of the beauty of the structure.

 

haircut-before

Before

 

haircut-after

After

We love the results!

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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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Did we solve the mystery…?

Do you remember our post from about a year ago on the The Amazing Appearing and Disappearing Tree?

You know, the tree that wasn’t there in 1929…

tree-1

Was there in the early 30’s…

tree-2

And was gone by 1934…

tree-3

Well, we may have just solved the mystery!  We recently stumbled across a 15 Oct, 1953 Observer article entitled 25 years progress at EOC Told by Member of Original Faculty.

The faculty member was John M. Miller who was, at the time the article was written, the director of teacher education at EOU (EOC in those days).

In the interview Professor Miller recalled the first Evensong and described how faculty and students brought in greenery to enhance an otherwise rather barren landscape.

amazing-tree-observer

If the Amazing Appearing and Disappearing Tree could be considered “greenery”, that just might explain where it came from and why it didn’t stay.  It would also explain the appearance and disappearance of the smaller, but significant nonetheless, trees on the hillside on either side of the staircase.  If this is, indeed, what happened, we’re pretty impressed with the effort all of this must have taken!

What do you think?  Did we solve the mystery?

All photos in this post courtesy EOU Pierce Library

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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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The Amazing Appearing and Disappearing Tree…

When “Courthouse Hill” was chosen in 1927 as the site of the new Eastern Oregon Normal School, the City of La Grande went about doing the necessary grading on top of the hill to make the property conform to the plan of the architect and covering the exposed gravel with good soil suitable for propagation of lawns and growth.

So, when the Grand Staircase was completed in 1929, the hillside on which it sits was a blank canvas, ready for landscaping.

Nearly completed EOU Pierce Library

Newly completed – 1929

It was when researching what happened next that we discovered The Amazing Appearing and Disappearing Tree.

NOW YOU SEE IT…

Appearing

Early 1930’s

NOW YOU DON’T…

Disappearing

1934

Although there were several other fir trees that had also appeared as a part of the landscaping around the staircase, the one that we deemed “amazing” was the one directly in front.  It was so large that were it not for the fact that the picture was taken in June (at Evensong), one might have thought that it had been brought in for Christmas and was anchored in some sort of stand.   Planting (or rather transplanting) one that size seems like a daunting job.

Which, is possibly why all the trees were gone by 1934.  A good landscaping idea gone bad?

Based on photographic evidence, it appears that it was sometime in the 1960’s that fir trees did once again become part of the picture – taking their place on either side of the staircase.

1967 EOU Pierce Library

1967

But, The Amazing Appearing and Disappearing Tree was never seen again.

All photos in this post are courtesy of EOU Pierce Library

 

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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 November of 2014 it was chosen for inclusion on Restore Oregon’s Most Endangered Places List.

We started this blog and the accompanying Facebook page that same month.  Our intent is 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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We love growth charts…

We love growth charts – giraffes or giant rulers or brontosauruses or simply marks and dates on a wall showing the passing of the years and the growth and development of the people we love.

Recently, while perusing archival photos of the Grand Staircase, we found it interesting to “chart” the growth of the arborvitaes that were planted in front of the Grand Staircase as a part of the original landscaping.  In the photos below, you can use the horizontal sections on the face of the staircase as a “growth chart” of sorts to measure their progression over the decades.

1934

1934

 

1935

1935

 

1936

1936

 

Did you know? In the book Restoring American Gardens: An Encyclopedia of Heirloom American Plants (1640-1940) by Denise Wiles Adams, arborvitaes rank fourth on the  list of plants most frequently offered in trade catalogs and advertisements during the 300 year timeframe Adams studied.

 

1942

1942

 

1944

1944

 

1956

1956

 

Did you know? The name arborvitae comes from the Latin “tree of life”, named so either because early voyageurs made a tea from the foliage which was high in vitamin C and prevented scurvy or because of the 200-300 life expectancy of the trees.

 

1960

1960

 

1962

1962

 

1966

1966 and a haircut?

 

May 2015

May 2015

 

The arborvitaes may or may not always remain a part of the landscaping around the Grand Staircase, but they will remain an important part of its history and one of our fond memories.

All black and white photos in this post are courtesy of the EOU Pierce Library.

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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 November of 2014 it was chosen for inclusion on Restore Oregon’s Most Endangered Places List.

We started this blog and the accompanying Facebook page that same month.  Our intent is 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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Spirea

Springtime in La Grande.  Lilacs, tulips, irises, and of course, spirea.  Spirea with its masses of small, white flower clusters.  Spirea with its delicate foliage.  Spirea with its cascading branches.  Spirea around the Grand Staircase.

spirea Spirea at the top of the Grand Staircase – Photo – May 2, 2015

We heard from some of you about your memories of the “mysterious hiding places just on the outsides of the stairs”.  Might some of those hiding places have been the secret places created by the propensity of spirea to mound, the arching branches bending to the ground to form an umbrella?

And, every little girl who attended Ackerman Elementary School knew that, when shaken, spirea branches release showers of petals – armfuls of delicate white confetti.

From early pictures, it appears that spirea were planted around the staircase in the 1930’s, as a part of the original landscaping.

The 1919 Gardeners’ Chronicle of America, Volumes 23-24 indicates that the Vanhouttei (bridal wreath) variety of spirea “has justly achieved great popularity”, so it was likely a common choice of landscapers of that era.

Spirea Vanhouttei

In the 1934 photo below (courtesy of the EOU Pierce Library) you can see the small bushes (although not in bloom) at the bottom (along with the “baby” arborvitae).

Spirea 1

By the 1960’s, bridal wreath spirea had become an impressive feature of the hillside, each spring showcasing a profusion of white blossoms.

Spirea 2

Some of the spirea is now gone and the extensive work needed to fully restore the Grand Staircase may one day necessitate partial or total removal of the rest.  In addition, Eastern Oregon University’s 2012 Master Plan calls for a “local landscape palette” – planting with locally available native and adapted species to help meet the University’s sustainable development goals for landscape management.

From what we’ve seen so far (e.g. with the plantings around the Hoke Union Building) David Lageson, Director of Facilities & Planning at EOU, has done a great job leading that effort.  So, we’re sure whatever is in store for future landscaping around the staircase will be just wonderful!

Hoke 1

Hoke 2

Hoke native plant landscaping – photos courtesy of David Lageson

 

We will end with an aside, classified under “random things you learn when you’re trying to save an architectural treasure”.  We were fascinated to find out that the word Aspirin comes from the name of the chemical ASA—Acetylspirsäure in German. Spirsäure (salicylic acid) was named for the meadowsweet plant, Spirea ulmaria, from which it could be derived.  You can read more about it (and the fascinating history or Aspirin) here.

 

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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