Could the Grand Staircase be one of a kind?

Eastern Oregon University’s Grand Staircase was built in the Italian Renaissance Revival style popular in Oregon (and elsewhere in the US) from the late 1800’s through the first part of the 20th century.  This style of architecture takes its inspiration from 16th century Renaissance Italy and France but also includes additional elements from Ancient Greek and Roman architecture.

The Italian Renaissance Revival style is most noticeable in the Grand Staircase’s balustrades and balusters.  Although balusters are a Renaissance invention (the Romans used lattice motifs), it is thought that the inspiration for the shape came from ancient Roman candlesticks. Italian and English architects of the Renaissance recognized that the chief beauty of the balusters came from their repetition – something which is certainly apparent in the staircase.

Baluster smiles Photo – Gary Olson

According to the Popular Dictionary of Architecture and the Allied Arts, Vol 2 the type of baluster used in the Grand Staircase is an example of the most commonly adopted style – a round body with a square top and bottom.  Another source we checked referred to this design as a vase-shaped/vasiform baluster.

Did you know?  The word baluster is said to come from the Italian balausta “flower of the wild pomegranate”. Staircase uprights often had lyre-like double curves, similar to the calyx tube of the flower.

.Pomegrante flower

Other examples of Italian Renaissance Revival architecture in Oregon are not difficult to find.  They include theaters, banks, post offices, schools, hotels, apartment buildings not to mention EOU’s own Inlow Hall and Ackerman Hall.

However, grand staircases are a different story.

In fact, after a rather exhaustive Google search we are of the mind that Eastern Oregon University’s Grand Staircase is perhaps significant and even one of a kind in its grandeur (and not just in Oregon).

We’ll be exploring this notion further and report back what we find in future posts!


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 .