The instrumental group “Prevailing Wind” creates a traditional holiday ambience for La Grande City Council’s annual Holiday Open House Wednesday evening at City Hall. From left, are Denise Hattan Dave Felley, Don Jensen and Beth Gilmore. This year’s open house commemorated the 100-year anniversary of the construction of the La Grande City Hall building. CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer
Community comes together to celebrate 100th anniversary of construction of city hall
The La Grande City Council chambers, usually the scene of dry and matter-of-fact governmental proceedings, took on a festive air Wednesday as people gathered to mark the 100th birthday of the construction of City Hall.
The two-story brick structure designed by architect James Knox stands at the corner of Adams Avenue and Fourth Street as solid and substantial as the day it first opened its doors. It housed the post office and a host of other federal agencies over the years, until the city moved its offices in in 1982.
Mayor Daniel Pokorney, presiding over Wednesday’s centennial celebration, said he thinks always of the people who have served the community from City Hall over the years.
“The council and the staff are so proud of this great old building,” Pokorney said. “It stands as a tribute to so many great citizens of our city. We’re here to celebrate not only the strength of the building, but also the people who have served the city so many years.”
The building, designed in the Georgian Revival style, was constructed between 1911-1913 on a triangular lot and whose landscaping today includes a small park with a flagpole.
During the federal period, the building housed the post office and land office on the first floor and various other federal agencies on the second floor. In 1963, the post office was moved to its present location on Washington Avenue.
Up until 1982, the city conducted its business at the old city hall at Sixth Street and Washington Avenue. It moved into the federal building that year, and today is headquarters for the building department, the finance office, the city council, the planning department, the community and economic development department, the city manager and the city recorder.
City Planner Mike Boquist said City Hall is in excellent shape today, with many original features including doors and woodwork, nicely preserved. Boquist said he enjoys coming to working in the solid old structure, though he added that some department heads wish they had a little more room.
Wednesday’s party at City Hall featured food and refreshments, a recorder concert by Prevailing Wind, and a performance by Carla Arnold and Blue Plate Special. As the festivities continued there, another centennial celebration was taking at the nearby Cook Memorial Library.
There, Librarian Terri Washburn had organized a party observing the 100th anniversary of library services in La Grande.
That event got under way earlier in the day, and featured music by the Kupenga Marimba Band, the Union County Children’s Choir, the La Grande High School Choir and local band Colt Haney and Bitterroot.There was also a book signing by successful children’s author Keith Baker, who grew up in La Grande.
La Grande’s first library opened in the basement of old Honan Hall in March 1912. I moved to a brand new Carnegie building in 1914, and stayed there until 2006 when construction of the state-of-the-art Cook Library was completed.
“I think it’s wonderful we’ve had a library here 100 years. I hope we have one for another hundred,” Washburn said.
Washburn said that in the modern era of electronic books and communications, the role of the library in the community is changing. More and more, it functions as a community gathering place and a place for classes and lectures.
“I think there will be a continuing educational piece. One of our roles is lifelong learning,” Washburn said.