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Eastern Oregon University Announces Grand Staircase Construction

Eastern Oregon University Announces Grand Staircase Construction

LA GRANDE, Ore. – Eastern Oregon University is set to begin construction on the Grand Staircase this month. Completed in 1929, just after Eastern Oregon Normal School opened its doors, the iconic landmark provides a pathway between the University and downtown La Grande and has been an important symbol of connection between EOU and the community for nearly 100 years. 

Proposed Grand Staircase

In 2022, the Oregon Legislature allocated $4 million to EOU for the project, which began with removal of the original structure which had become unstable, followed by reinforcement of the hillside for a new staircase. The University will begin construction on the new staircase in June with an anticipated completion at the end of November.

For decades, the iconic structure has been a focal point for community events and personal memories as well, including Evensong, a beloved spring commencement week pageant held on the steps for nearly 40 years. Due to deterioration, the Staircase was closed to public use in 2004. Restore Oregon, a statewide nonprofit focused on historic preservation and reuse, added the Staircase to its “Most Endangered Places List” in 2015. 

“The Grand Staircase was one of the first discussion items brought to me,” said President Kelly Ryan. “Many longtime faculty and staff, alumni, and supporters shared wonderful stories about the Stairs, including Evensong, concerts, and even wedding proposals and marriages. I want to thank everyone who worked tirelessly on this project so that we may build and enjoy a beautiful view and connection to the community.”

The Grand Staircase, blueprint.

The updated design maintains the physical connection between the campus and the community, addresses current safety considerations, and will help maintain long-term viability. Due to cost considerations, the revised structure does not include balustrades–the small vase-shaped supports that lined the stairs–and the middle landing is smaller. 

According to Tim Seydel, Vice President for University Advancement, the features of the new Staircase are a reflection and nod to the special architectural design of the original Grand Staircase. 

“It was very important that we retain as much of the original Grand Staircase as possible,” Seydel said. “The ‘spirit’ of the Staircase and was kept alive by The Friends of the Grand Staircase, the EOU Foundation, the Alumni Association and community members past and present. They all helped make this project a reality and we are all looking forward to a new Grand Staircase to all use and enjoy.”

To learn more about the Grand Staircase project visit eou.edu/grand-staircase.