A cotton candy sky…

Just in time for the Union County Fair, the view from the top of the Grand Staircase gives us a cotton candy sky!

Cotton candy sky

Photo – EOU Web Cam – 7/27/15 11:30 am

 

We think this sky deserves a blue ribbon!

 

To read 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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Why you should take your children to see the Grand Staircase – right now…

You should take your children to see the Grand Staircase – right now.

Now, with its crumbling balustrades and cracked balusters.  Now, with its missing pieces. Now, with its barricaded steps.

Why? Because it is still beautiful and it is still a magical place.  Why? Because it is still an exquisite example of American Renaissance architecture.  Why? Because it is a golden opportunity to teach your kids about historic preservation.

A friend of ours remembers visiting the wreck of the Peter Iredale at Fort Stevens State Park as a child.  Her parents told her “Remember what it looks like now, because when you bring your own children back to see it one day it will look different”.

Peter Iredale 1960

 The wreck of the Peter Iredale – 1960

Peter Iredale today

The wreck of the Peter Iredale – today

When you take your children to see the Grand Staircase you can tell them the same thing. “Remember what it looks like now, because when you bring your own children back to see it one day it will look different”.

In the case of the Grand Staircase, of course, we hope your children’s children will see a staircase that has been saved and fully restored, an architectural treasure that is a beloved and functional part of the community, a staircase that contributes to heritage tourism in La Grande and eastern Oregon, and a sterling example of historic preservation at its best.

 

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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The Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia – inspiration of coincidence?

When architectural historian Calder Loth sent us his thoughts on and impressions of Eastern Oregon University’s Grand Staircase he included information about The Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia and noted the “striking similarities” between the conjectural drawing for this structure and the steps at EOU.

We thought his observations were fascinating and thought you might too…

 “It’s probably coincidental, but the Eastern Oregon University stair has striking similarities to Palladio’s conjectural drawing for the ancient Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia at Palestrina… This drawing (below) was housed in the collections of the Royal Institute of British Architects at the time the Oregon stair was designed. It’s a stretch to think that John Virginius Bennes may have seen either the original or a published version of it. Nonetheless, even though he worked mainly in the Prairie School tradition, Bennes’ stair design shows that he was well-versed in the High Renaissance idiom and could execute a remarkably competent composition.”

 

Drawing

Palladio’s conjectural drawing for the ancient Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia at Palestrina

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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The experts weigh in…

A few weeks ago we brought up the notion of whether or not Eastern Oregon University’s Grand Staircase might be a one of a kind or at the very least significant in grandeur among outdoor (Renaissance) staircases in the U.S.

Our exploration of this idea lead us to discover a number of impressive outdoor staircase examples and put us in touch with some very kind and very helpful experts.

Richard Guy Wilson, who holds the Commonwealth Professor’s Chair in Architectural History at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia wrote us that the staircase…

“…certainly is grand. I don’t think I have ever seen one quite this elaborate in the US… it is really the grandest I think I have ever seen.”

He went on to mention that there are similar, but smaller staircases that were “inspired by Italian gardens and several books written and published here in the US in the 1890s and early 1900s”.

Examples he gave were the steps at Edith Wharton’s The Mount in Lenox, Ma seen in the photo below…

Edith Wharton's

and the stairs and waterfall from the Italian garden at Maymont in Richmond.  The steps themselves are a bit difficult to see in the photo below, but are on either side of the waterfall.

Maymont

Gibson Worsham, an architectural historian based in Petersburg, Virginia, wrote us that…

“Lynchburg, Virginia has a grand urban stair that climbs to the courthouse, but the courthouse at the top doesn’t look like a Renaissance villa like the one in Oregon!”

The Renaissance villa he was referring to, of course, is Inlow Hall!

Monument Terrace

Monument Terrace and old courthouse in Lynchburg, Virginia

Another internationally renowned urban planner and architect believes only one comparable staircase exists in the U.S. – at the University of Virginia (see photo below).

University of Virginia rotunda

University of Virginia steps at the Rotunda

Erik Bootsma, an architect and planner, also in Richmond wrote us that “the biggest and best Renaissance stairway in the US is the now also closed mall side steps of the US Capitol”.

US Capital steps

The mall side steps of the US Capital

Of course, it’s nice to even be mentioned in the same conversation as the U.S. Capital!  And, we’ve been told that the two staircases can be actually be differentiated by the fact that one is an “architectural extension” while the other is a “supporting landscape feature”.   Who knew?

And finally, Calder Loth, Senior Architectural Historian at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Member: Advisory Council, Institute of Classical Architecture and Art, Member: Advisory Council, Virginia Center for Architecture wrote us that the staircase is …

“A supreme example of an American Renaissance monumental landscape staircase…”

 “…and an outstanding one at that.”

In his generous and extensive comments he also included the paragraph below…

 “Thank you for asking me to comment on the grand staircase at Eastern Oregon University; I’m glad to offer some random observations. Indeed, I appreciate your bringing this extraordinary work to my attention. I had no previous knowledge of its existence. You’ve asked if comparable monumental exterior staircases exist elsewhere in America. I have searched my memory as well as various published and online sources and can find none so ambitious or of comparable scale and complexity.  We might consider some state capitols but their grand stairs are more in the nature of architectural extensions than supporting landscape features. The Oregon stair is a highly informed design echoing the Italian Renaissance tradition, recalling such schemes as the Spanish Steps in Rome and the gardens of the Villa Farnese at Caprarola. We have a more modest example in Lynchburg, Virginia with Monument Terrace, a war memorial also from the 1920s, but not nearly so ambitious…”

Rome's Spanish Steps

Rome’s Spanish Steps

So, how do you think “our” Grand Staircase stacks up against these other suburb examples?

Grand Staircase color photo

We think it stacks up pretty well!

Is it the largest, the grandest, or one of a kind?  Absolutes are difficult and we may never know.  But we can rest assured that it is indeed something very special.

 

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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Which route did you take?

In last week’s post we talked about the two entrances on the south side of Inlow Hall – the one on the west originally intended for faculty and staff and the one on the east originally intended for students.

All of this left us wondering about wear and tear on the treads (and for that matter the balusters) of the Grand Staircase.  Is it more or less uniform or is it uneven?

  • Because of the number of students vs. the number of faculty/staff did more people (at least at one time) enter the east Inlow door than the one on the west? And, did that mean that the steps leading to the east side exit at the top of the staircase were used more than the ones on the west?
  • And what about the steps at the bottom? People coming to the university from east of Ninth Street likely climbed the college steps.  Did they naturally enter on the east side?  People coming from the west side of Ninth Street likely climbed Eighth Street hill instead of taking the stairway.  Does this mean the bottom west entrance was used less often?
  • And, when they were open, how did most people climb up and down the steps? Did they simply ascend or descend one side or the other?  Or did they crisscross back and forth?

Routes

How did you climb up (or down) the staircase?  We’d love to know!

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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