Looking Down Grand Staircase

Eastern Oregon University Grand Staircase

1934 Evensong Graduation

1934 Evensong Graduation
(photo courtesy of Eastern Oregon University)

(c)Eastern Oregon University. This image is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution from collections at Eastern Oregon University

Ladies ascending the Grand Staircase (historic photo courtesy of Eastern Oregon University)

missing balusters on Grand Staircase photo by Gary Olson

Missing balusters on Grand Staircase
(photo by Gary Olson)

1956 Evensong Graduation

1956 Evensong Graduation (photo courtesy of Eastern Oregon University)

broken balusters (photo by Gary Olson)

Broken balusters
(photo by Gary Olson)

Grand Staircase now (photo by Gary Olson)

Grand Staircase now
(photo by Gary Olson)


  • Built: 1929
  • Architect: John Bennes
  • Designation: National Register of Historic Places

News and Updates

Fall 2016
  • Began partnering with City of La Grande and La Grande Main Street Downtown
  • Documentation of structure using 3D laser scanning technology completed October 2016
  • Learned of architectural significance of Grand Staircase: comparable to Spanish Steps in Rome; no other monumental exterior staircase in US of its scale, complexity, and beauty
  • Secured $18,000 in grant funding for condition assessment
  • Condition assessment completed by Hennebery Eddy Architects
  • Reconstruction chosen as only practical preservation option
November 5, 2014

Listed as a Most Endangered Place by Restore Oregon


Eastern Oregon University (EOU) in La Grande was established in 1929 as The Eastern Oregon Normal School, a teachers college. The original campus building, known today as Inlow Hall, was designed by Portland architect John Bennes. It is perched on top of a natural ridgeline overlooking downtown La Grande. The building is the virtual duplicate of Southern Oregon University’s Churchill Hall, built in 1926. However, Inlow Hall was distinguished from its southern twin by a highly developed set of terraces and balustrades, also designed by Bennes. The terraces along the southwest portion of the site were removed decades ago, and today the Grand Staircase is the sole remaining element of what was originally an elaborate set of landscape features. The Grand Staircase, completed in 1929, features five tiers that climb up the hillside on the northern edge of the EOU campus. The staircase is connected to Inlow Hall by a formal view terrace. The building and staircase are in the Italian Renaissance Revival style, and both were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Why it’s Endangered

The Grand Staircase is in a severely deteriorated state and is unsafe for public use. It was closed to the public in 2004 and has remained barricaded since that time. The condition of the flatwork varies from poor to complete deterioration. Many of the steps have large sections of concrete missing. Several areas of the railings are also missing. Many of the individual balustrades are broken or missing. A 2008 study found that approximately 60% of the staircase needs either significant repair or reconstruction. The condition of the staircase has continued to decline during the six years since the study.

Near-term Goals

The Grand Staircase continues to deteriorate due to the ongoing threats of ground movement, La Grande’s harsh winters, and vandalism. In 2008, EOU assembled a Grand Staircase Task Force made up of faculty, staff, and alumni. The Task Force issued a report outlining several preservation and restoration alternatives and the staircase is prominently featured in the campus master plan. While sufficient funding is not available for any of the preservation alternatives, a restricted fund has been created to receive donations for the effort. In the months ahead, a defined strategy for preservation and funding will be developed.

Grand Staircase one pager

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