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. Survey after survey has shown that cultural heritage tourists often stay longer and spend more money than other tourists. And, a 2012 study of cultural heritage travelers organized by the Oregon Heritage Commission revealed that in Oregon these tourist spend nearly 60 percent more than the national average.
It’s summertime. Your sister Jessica and her family are visiting La Grande from Seattle next week. Last time they came you drove everyone up to Wallowa Lake and they all had a blast.
This time you’d like to stay a little closer to home. Of course you’ll take them to the Farmers Market and then go to your favorite place for ice cream. You think your nephew and brother-in-law would enjoy The Eastern Oregon Fire Museum and Jessica will love visiting some of the art galleries.
In fact, you’ve created a long list of other fun and cool things to do around town but did you remember to include a visit to the Grand Staircase?
Even though the steps are now closed to public use, they are still impressive and magical. They are still an architectural treasure. I mean where else can you visit an Italian Renaissance staircase of such grandeur in the morning and then attend a ranch rodeo that afternoon/evening? Where else can you find a staircase of such significance in Oregon or perhaps even the United States?
Although we dream about and anticipate the day when the Grand Staircase has been reconstructed, there is a certain romantic appeal to crumbling balusters, cracks in cement and partially missing pieces. Perhaps it is nostalgia for the past or the imagined beauty of the vanished grandeur in the parts that remain. For whatever reason, the aesthetic value is undeniably there.
So, whether you live in La Grande and are entertaining out of town guests or visiting La Grande yourself, consider including a visit to the Grand Staircase on your itinerary. You won’t be sorry.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.