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Historic Knight Library: Art & Architecture

Guide to the art and architecture of the 1937 historic Knight Library, University of Oregon, Eugene.


Imagine students, who could barely afford college in the midst of the Great Depression, entering the library through these elegant vestibules whose artistry and use of exquisite materials were unmatched in Oregon's public buildings of the 1930s.

Knight Library's entrance halls, or vestibules, are among the three historic interiors of the University of Oregon that remain essentially unaltered, the other two being the lobby of Johnson Hall and the Alumni Hall of Gerlinger Hall.

Entrance halls: Art Deco wave motif which rests on a Vitruvian scroll.

Entrance hall (west), Knight Library

Ceiling corner detail, entrance halls.

Bench, marble walls, in entrance halls

The library was designed with two main entrances at the north facade, and a third entrance into the basement at the west wing facade. This particular arrangement was designed to avoid crowding, noise and confusion that result with one general entrance in the traditional library.    Large double partially-cast bronze and glass doors are designed in geometric patterns with inter-locking motifs of corn, wheat, and rosettes. Each door is approximately ten feet tall by five feet wide with large vertical pull handles.

The walls are faced with Napoleon Grey French marble, a limestone quarried in Missouri.   In either vestibule, large piers faced in gold and black Italian marble create three-part entrances to the main corridor. Glass doors and lighting fixtures of these inner entrances are bronze-framed and decorated with bronze grillework The cetnral lintel in each vestibule is capped by an Art Deco wave motif which rests on a Vitruvian scroll design. The ceilings are covered in a gold leaf with a green patina;  the cornice molding is painted dark green to match. The vestibule flooring is terrazzo.

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Douglass, Matthew Hale. The University of Oregon Library Building. 1937.

Evans, Lew. "Art Work in New Library Product of Delicate Work by Grads and Professors." Oregon Daily Emerald, May 19, 1937.  

The article identifies the Arnold B. Hall memorial gates and companion plaques by O. B. Dawson; the frieze of heads by Edna Dunberg and Louise Utter Pritchard; the balcony sculptures by Pritchard; and the wood carvings by Arthur Clough and the Gypsy Craftsmen in the Upper Division Reading Room. The article notes that in the stairwells are four open blank frames. The two hand-lettered murals by N. B. Zane are described and it is noted that the Runquist Brothers are working on the larger spaces.

Emerson, Kim, "University of Oregon Library and Memorial Quadrangle," National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, August 15, 1989.

"The Library," Ellis Lawrence Building Survey. v.2 (Eugene). Compiled by the Historic Preservation Program, School of Architecture and Allied Arts, University of Oregon ; project directors, Michael Shellenbarger, Kimberly Lakin. [Salem, Or.] : State Historic Preservation Office, [1989].