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.



Early 1930’s




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


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



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