Richard Hobbs drove by the Slater Building at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Fir Street many times before he bought it in 2004.
Hermitage Green: Owner Richard Hobbs looked long and hard for the right shade of green with which to paint the Slater Building at the corner of Fir Street and Jefferson Avenue. The color he settled on is a close match to that of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. - Observer photos/BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH
A lover of architecture, he had nothing but admiration for it. He especially loved the ornate facade on the Jefferson Street Side.
And, as a practical matter, he knew that a building with both commercial and residential space would be a good investment.
There wasn’t much he didn’t like about the building, in fact, except the color. The color, he knew, had to go.
“I’d noticed the building many times, and I’d always admired it,” said Hobbs, a recent law school graduate who lives in Lostine. “The only real problem was, someone had painted it battleship gray. With that color, it almost looked like it was an abandoned building.”
The building, of course, was far from abandoned. It has been in more or less continuous use since it was constructed in 1891. Today five businesses rent space in the ground floor, and there are 10 apartments upstairs.
Hobbs, a former owner of The Castle, another famous La Grande landmark, went ahead with the purchase of the Slater Building and started making improvements.
A new paint job was on the list, but some basics had to be taken care of first. Priorities were asbestos abatement, plumbing repairs and remodeling of the apartments.
All that has been accomplished. So this summer, Hobbs and his wife, Jennifer, decided it was time to tackle the paint job.
They had several discussions about the new color. Jennifer suggested green, and Hobbs came to like the idea. But, as far as he was concerned, it had to be the exact right shade of green.
Hobbs had once visited the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Now, there was a pretty shade of green, he recalled.
“It’s really beautiful. It’s green, but a grayish, bluish green,” he said.
Highlights: The cornice at the top of the Slater Building, along with other trim, will be painted a cream color. - Observer photos/BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH
Pictures of The Hermitage gave a fairly accurate color rendering, but they didn’t reproduce well. Hobbs remembered he had taken some photographs himself. He dug them out, and found the color reproduction good.
The next problem was to find — or create — a paint that was a close match. A specialist at La Grande Paint and Glass took care of that problem, Hobbs said.
“She had a really good eye for color. Using a paint analyzer, she came up with the color we’re calling ‘Hermitage green’,” Hobbs said.
The cornice and other trim on the building will be done in a cream color. Hobbs hired Dale Ault Painting and Drywall to do the painting. Work began the second week of September and will be complete by the end of this month, weather permitting.
Hobbs said the paint job is the last major improvement he needs to do. He is more than pleased that the work is nearing completion.
“The building is really beautiful, but that gray color just makes it fade away,” he said.