What does your husband do, Mrs. Bennes?…

With fall term classes starting at Eastern Oregon University this coming Monday (September 28) it seemed like a perfect time to share the 1940 U.S. Federal Census record we found for John Virginius Bennes, the architect and genius behind the Grand Staircase.

Anyone who has pursued census records for genealogical research or other purposes knows that how the information is captured can be “interesting”.  In all fairness to census takers in the past, traipsing from house to house, questioning whomever was home or perhaps a neighbor, and trying to capture what was related in a very small space must have, at times, been arduous.

In 1940 the Bennes household had a lot to be proud of.  John Bennes and his wife Annice Smalley’s son John (who was living with them at the time) was an opera singer.  And, Bennes, who was nearing retirement, had amassed an impressive portfolio…

  • He had introduced the Prairie School of Design to Portland residential architecture.
  • He had designed the Broadway Hotel and Hollywood Theater in Portland as well as Astoria’s Liberty Theater.
  • He had designed several buildings at the Oregon College of Education, the administration building at Southern Oregon College of Education, Inlow Hall and J.H. Ackerman Elementary school at Eastern Oregon College of Education.
  • He had spent the last 33 years working with Oregon State College (now OSU) where he had designed more than 35 new buildings and more than a dozen building expansions or renovations!
  • And, of course, he had designed the Grand Staircase at EOU in La Grande.

We will never know who the 1940 census taker talked to or what they told tell when he asked the question “What does John Virginius Bennes do for a living?”

We do, however, know what he recorded…

 

John Bennes census

John Bennes census 2

Occupation: Architect

Industry: School Houses, etc.

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The Grand Staircase at Eastern Oregon University was 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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Concrete next steps…

Big things were happening on the Grand Staircase this past week.

Gregg Sanders and Carin Carlson from Hennebery Eddy Architects worked with John Garlitz of J-U-B Engineers, Inc. to begin the process of determining the condition of the staircase, the cause of its deterioration, what needs to happen next, and the approximate costs involved.

This work is being funded by grants the EOU Foundation received from Restore Oregon, The Kinsman Foundation, and The National Trust for Historic Preservation.  You can read more about the grants here.

Gregg is an Associate Principal at Hennebery Eddy and Carin is a Historic Preservation Architect for the firm.  John is a Civil Engineer for J-U-B Engineers in La Grande.

In the photo below Carin is investigating the existing condition of the cast-in-place concrete stair piers. Cast-in-place concrete is transported in an unhardened state, primarily as ready-mix, and placed in forms.

Carin

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We are a group of passionate individuals dedicated to saving and restoring the Grand Staircase at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, Oregon.

The staircase was designed by Oregon architect John Bennes and completed in 1929.  Sadly, the staircase 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 and learn more about why it needs saving, 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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ROYGBIV a la the Grand Staircase

We have become quite enamored with the webcam on the north side of Inlow Hall which, for all intents and purposes, provides the same view as one would see from the View Terrace at the top of the Grand Staircase.

We check it rather frequently, just to see what Mt. Emily is up to or with the hopes of catching a glimpse of something special flying by – a blue bird, a vintage plane on its way somewhere exciting, an errant kite, or perhaps a red balloon.

So far, every time we’ve looked, the sky has been free of anything accept clouds.  However, the sky and clouds alone are worth the price of admission.  Ever changing, the variance in color is amazing and, in fact, could be said to include all the colors of the rainbow.

Below, courtesy of the Grand Staircase and with a smidgen of imagination and creative license when it comes to the color green, is a rainbow sky over Mt. Emily.

Rainbow

Rainbow 1

Rainbow 2

Rainbow 3

Rainbow 4

Rainbow 5

Rainbow 6

Rainbow 7

Rainbow 8

Rainbow 9

Rainbow 10

Rainbow 11

Rainbow 12

 

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We are a group of passionate individuals dedicated to saving and restoring the Grand Staircase at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, Oregon.

The staircase was designed by Oregon architect John Bennes and completed in 1929.  Sadly, the staircase 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.

 

LATEST NEWS: In the summer of 2015 the Eastern Oregon University Foundation received grants from Restore Oregon, The Kinsman Foundation, and The National Trust for Historic Preservation.  The funds will go towards determining what needs to be done to save and restore the Grand Staircase and estimating the cost to do so.  This is critical work needed to set the stage for pursuing additional funding.

 

To see a pictorial history of the staircase and learn more about why it needs saving, 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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Don’t try this at home (or on the Grand Staircase)…

In last week’s post we shared some of your Grand Staircase memories relating to running up and down the steps.  In among those recollections some of you also shared stories of a more daredevil nature.

For heaven’s sake, we DO NOT recommend or encourage or endorse any of these activities (in fact, quite the opposite) but we do recognize them as the fond memories that they are!

daredevil 4

Here is what you sent us…

“Balancing on the rail…”

“The site of many impromptu gymnastics events…glad our parents didn’t know”

“I just remembered that my husband told me many times about riding his bike down these stairs!!!”

“We used to walk over there from Ackerman ALL THE TIME. We’d not only sit on the steps but the railings too…and we’d walk and balance on the railings as well…not too smart, it’s a wonder we all lived.”

I climbed from the bottom to the top by going up the faces!”

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We are a group of passionate individuals dedicated to saving and restoring the Grand Staircase at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, Oregon.

The staircase was designed by Oregon architect John Bennes and completed in 1929.  Sadly, the staircase 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.

 

LATEST NEWS: In the summer of 2015 the Eastern Oregon University Foundation received grants from Restore Oregon, The Kinsman Foundation, and The National Trust for Historic Preservation.  The funds will go towards determining what needs to be done to save and restore the Grand Staircase and estimating the cost to do so.  This is critical work needed to set the stage for pursuing additional funding.

To see a pictorial history of the staircase and learn more about why it needs saving, 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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