An easy ascent and a gradual climb…

The Grand Staircase was open for public use for some 75 years.  We can only imagine the vast number of students, faculty members, townspeople, university employees, children on their way to J.H. Ackerman Elementary School, athletes, dignitaries and other visitors who climbed the steps during that time.

Did you know that when John V. Bennes designed the staircase he was thinking about each and every one of them?  The risers are five inches in height and the treads are from 15 to 20 inches deep. This low, broad tread provides an easy ascent and a gradual climb.

As one of the children who climbed the steps on their way to Ackerman and later took them two at a time so I wasn’t late to class at EOU, I can only say thank you!

Photo courtesy EOU Pierce Library


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


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