It’s easy to imagine that decades ago children played space invaders on the Grand Staircase, armed with their Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers ray guns (some of which could also conveniently be used as flashlights). Precursors to the laser guns of sci-fi adventures to come, these toys captured the imagination of generations.
How excited those children would have been if they’d known that in the not that distant future real-life lasers would actually be used on the Grand Staircase. In fact, that will occur sometime in September when 3-D laser scanning technology will be used to document the existing staircase.
This process creates a “point cloud” and yields a high level of accuracy. It is a crucial step in “saving” our beloved college steps. The information gathered will ensure that, when that day comes, the Grand Staircase can be reconstructed to exactly match the appearance of the original.
Additionally, salvaged samples of original cast stone units and materials can be used in making new molds and testing material composition to accurately match the original finishes.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.