POCATELLO — A local woman’s Facebook post has spurred a community movement to restore a historic Pocatello landmark, known in the area as the “Stairway to Heaven.”
Linda Jacobson said she has lived directly across from the “Stairway to Heaven,” a flight of stone stairs set into the side of a hill on South Lincoln Avenue, for years. She has watched people use them for exercise, photography and more.
“These stairs are very, very active, and so many people love them and enjoy them,” Jacobson said.
The stairs, which now appear to be leading nowhere, once ended at a dance hall called the Hillcrest Ballroom. According to “Pocatello Portrait: The Early Years, 1878-1928,” by H. Leigh Gittins, the dance hall was built in or around the fall of 1920. Pocatello residents say it burned down sometime after World War II.
A monument at the bottom of the stairs lists Sam M. Nixon as the builder of the steps and thanks Nixon for the “outdoor dance garden for the young at heart.”
Jacobson said she noticed what appeared to be a bulge on the stairs one day and decided to call the city of Pocatello.
Tom Kirkman, the city’s deputy public works director, said he went out to inspect the stairs and found that they had become eroded on the bottom.
“The stairs are built across a natural drainage ravine, so over time, during rain events or normal runoff events, they’ve eroded underneath the stairs, which has caused voids and caused the stairs to shift,” Kirkman said.
Kirkman said that it was “too early to tell” whether the stairs were hazardous for the public to continue using and added that the city has plans to further inspect the steps.
However, from the initial visit, Kirkman said it appears as though the majority of the stairs would need at least some work.
“There’s some erosion there, and there’s some steep slopes and just quite a few things we would need to put a little bit more design into,” he said.
After speaking with Kirkman, Jacobson launched an effort to restore the stairs.
She posted photos of the steps on Facebook, urging people to “save the stairs.” Her initial post has racked up nearly 100 comments and more than 150 shares.
“I’d like to see them preserved,” Jacobson said. “I know that might cost a lot of money, but there are so many people that have become involved in it I think it’s definitely doable.”
Initially, there was some confusion about who actually owned the stairs.
The city of Pocatello posted on its Facebook page that the stairs were county property, and they had reached out to the county to discuss them.
However, while most of the stairs are owned by the county, the base and the first few stairs are actually city property, and Kirkman said the city and county have been in contact and plan to further discuss what the best approach would be to preserve the historic property.
Bannock County Commissioner Terrel Tovey said he used to run up and down the stairs for exercise and hopes to see them restored.
“If people want to do something, I’m always more than interested to see what’s going on,” Tovey said. “And that’s kind of a community landmark, and there’s a little lore and history to it. If we can do something to preserve it, I’m all for that.”
Jacobson said she is mulling options for a fundraiser to assist in the restoration, though she isn’t yet sure what she will do.
“A suggestion was made on the Facebook post to allow individuals to purchase a stair and put their name on a step,” Jacobson said. “That would be fun.”
As for the city, Kirkman said that they will continue evaluating the area and keep the public posted.
“We’ll let everybody know when we get something figured out,” he said.