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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow HISTORIC DEPOT GETS NEW ROOF

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HISTORIC DEPOT GETS NEW ROOF

Sweeping out the old: Hipoliro Olivas of Portland sweeps up after removing the old red tiles that have covered the La Grande Railroad Depot building since its 1930 construction. The roofing project should take about three weeks to complete. (The Observer/CHRIS BAXTER).
Sweeping out the old: Hipoliro Olivas of Portland sweeps up after removing the old red tiles that have covered the La Grande Railroad Depot building since its 1930 construction. The roofing project should take about three weeks to complete. (The Observer/CHRIS BAXTER).

Dick Mason

The Observer

La Grande's stately railroad depot building is not going the way of the steam engine.

Union Pacific Railroad is making sure of it.

Union Pacific is replacing the building's eye-catching and historic red tile roof. The roof is the original one the building had when it opened in 1930, according to La Grande historian Jack Evans.

The roof is being replaced because it leaks, said James Barnes of Omaha, Neb., director of media information for Union Pacific. Barnes said that Union Pacific wants to preserve the integrity of the interior of the building by replacing the roof. The red tiles will be replaced by composition shingles.

Work on the roof started this week and should be complete in about three weeks.

The depot building, designed by renowned architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, is often overlooked and taken for granted today by people who drive by it regularly on Jefferson Avenue. However, the building was one of La Grande's most prominent structures when it was dedicated Dec. 27, 1930. The Observer devoted most of its edition that day to a celebration of the new depot.

"The theme for the event was La Grande's arrival as a true capital of the inland empire,'' wrote Michael Rosenbaum in a story about the depot published in The Observer Dec. 28, 2000.

The railroad had been in

La Grande since 1884. On June 23, 1884, the first freight trains arrived in La Grande, according to the Dec. 27, 1930, Observer. The freight trains arrived six days after the track had reached La Grande. The first passenger trains arrived in July 1884.

La Grande's first railroad depot was completed in September of that year.

Rosenbaum wrote that within a short time, the depot grounds became "a kind of city park with lawns and landscaping.''

"Gilbert Stanley Underwood's elegant western design gave La Grande a prominent public-center,'' Rosenbaum wrote.

Underwood designed about 18 stations for Union Pacific in the Midwest and West. He also designed the Awahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park and drew up preliminary plans for Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood.

Seven decades ago the depot cost $150,000 to build. Much of the work was done by local contractors.

The building's Spanish Revival style was "coupled with rustic details,'' a hallmark of its architect.

"The grand building with its peaked-roof and terra-cotta entranceway lent importance to the city as a (railroad) division point,'' Rosenbaum wrote.

The depot is La Grande's fourth. The first, built in 1884, burned on Aug. 4, 1900, according to the Dec. 27, 1930, edition of The Observer. It was replaced by a passenger station that opened prior to 1903.

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