Where did the explosion which rocked La Grande in the mid 1950s take place?

By Dick Mason The Observer July 09, 2012 06:09 pm

The blast  occurred on Mt. Emily Road just east of Owsley Canyon Road at Union County’s old powder house.

The accident occurred at  At 9:18 a.m. on April  24, 1955 when  all the dynamite and other explosives  in the building detonated. The explosion killed H. Eugene Banton, 60, of
La Grande, a Union County employee who was at the site of the blast.  He had gone there to check on supplies. 

So massive was the explosion that brick dust and debris shot 1,000 feet into the air, 

A hole 15-feet deep and four-feet wide was created and a pickup Baton had parked outside the storehouse was scattered over three acres, according to a story in the April 25, 1955, Observer. 


The blast’s impact was felt in downtown La Grande where at least 30 large plate glass windows were broken. Buildings where windows were broken included the old Sacajawea Hotel on  Adams Avenue. A man climbing up to get brooms and gloves so he could clean up the debris  at the hotel was injured when he fell 12 feet while trying to get the items. 

Windows at the old Central School, then located where La Grande Middle School is today, were cracked by the blast, said Bob Bull, a local historian and author. Bull, who lives in La Grande, was in class at  Central at the time of the blast.

At the Union County Fairgrounds a man working there reported that he was “…blown flat on his back’’ by the blast. The fairgrounds were about a mile from blast site.   

Hundreds of people converged on the site of  the explosion minutes after it occurred, creating a major traffic jam.