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The Slater Building is one of the most striking landmarks in La Grande. It was erected in 1891 and was designed combining elements of the Romanesque, Italianate, Renaissance, and Eastlake styles. As such, its architecture is eclectic yet cohesive in appearance. Interesting features include an elaborate cornice, double-hung windows separated by paired pilasters (columns) with Corinthian capitals, and segmental arches above windows and doorways. The building was constructed by its namesake, James H. Slater, who was a prominent lawyer and state and national politician, having served in the Oregon Territorial and State Legislature, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate. A few businesses occupy the building today.

The Slater Building was constructed in 1891

The Slater Building was constructed in 1891

James Slater was born in 1926 in Illinois. Instead of attending college, he headed to California in 1849 as part of the Gold Rush. He eventually settled in Corvalis, Oregon around 1850 where he became a teacher and studied law. Demonstrating himself as a skilled lawyer, he was appointed Clerk of the U.S. District Court in 1853, and the next year he was admitted into the bar. He also married his wife, Elizabeth, at that time.

His political career began in 1857 when he was elected to the Oregon Territorial Legislature and then the State Legislature the next year. In the coming years he joined another gold rush, this time in eastern Oregon, practiced law in Walla Walla and Auburn, and then settled in La Grande in 1866. Slater became district attorney that year and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1870. He served in Congress until he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1879.

Slater bought the land on which his building now stands in 1890. The bricks to construct the building were made locally. The first floor was designed for business and the second floor contained offices. Slater and two of his sons, who were also lawyers, established a law firm and their offices were located in the building. Slater passed away in 1999 but his sons continued to practice law, one of whom remained in the building until 1914. The family owned the building until 1920. Businesses have occupied the first floor and the upper floor became apartments. The building was painted its current color scheme in 2008.

Evans, John W. "Slater Building." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. August 11, 1983.

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