On Tuesday, I highlighted Reynolds Park, La Grande’s pocket park. Today, I am presenting the story of Max Square, the gathering place for Downtown and beyond for events as varied as the Farmer’s Market, political events, musical events, and the Christmas Eve Tree Lighting.
On the corner of Adams Avenue and Fourth Street, Max Square arose out of the ashes of a fire in November of 1987 that destroyed the WC Grandy Building at 1001 Adams Avenue. Seven businesses had been destroyed and the entire two-block radius had to be evacuated. The owner chose not to rebuild and, before long, the Friends of La Grande Main Street began a multi-year fundraising drive to purchase the property and convert it into a park.
It took six years of selling homemade strawberry shortcake at all community events and offering engraved bricks to adorn the park, but finally the $90,000 to purchase the land was raised. The intrepid group then approached Norm Paullus, the La Grande City engineer, and he designed the park. Extensive landscape was planted and Boise Cascade donated and installed the first community Christmas tree. Now each year, a new tree is donated by different concerns that is lighted and decorated each year at an event put on by La Grande Main Street.
Throughout the years, Max Square has evolved and changed. It was named in honor of Maxine Cook, a generous benefactor to La Grande. In 2002, Cast Iron Mary was recreated by local sculptor Ralph Moore and placed at the park entrance. Originally placed by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1904, the statue and drinking fountain meant to discourage saloon visits, was destroyed in a hit and run accident in 1922 by a local bootlegger—irony lives.
Max Square is available to rent for private events and also plays host to many community gatherings. I went to the Farmer’s Market on both Tuesday afternoon and Sunday morning and delighted in the variety of goods and produce on offer. Max Square has been a lovely fixture in La Grande for many years and contributes so much to a feeling of community in our Downtown.