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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.

Frederick A. Cuthbert
Courtesy of the UO College of Design

Fred Cuthbert with students. Source: Oregana 1939.

LIBRARY TERRACE & GARDEN

Frederick Cuthbert, landscape architect professor at the University of Oregon, was the principal designer of the campus landscape in the 1930s.  The terrace in front of the historic Knight Library was renamed the Class of 1969 Terrace and Garden in 1994 with support from the class in honor of its silver anniversary.  The cast stone furniture and decorative features were designed by Ernest Thomas Cast Stone Company.

Library terrace, 1940. Source: Oregana, 1941

Exterior furniture, cast stone

Knight Library terrace and fountain, 2017.

Fountain, Knight Library terrace

Fountain, cherry trees, in front of Knight Library. Photo: Amanda Garcia. Oregon Digital.

The landscaping and associated outdoor design elements were designed to highlight Knight Library as the crowning piece of a quadrangle which was established in Ellis Lawrence's 1914 campus plans.  The original concept was that an auditorium, not a library, would be the building to occupy the north end of the north-south axis.  The landscaping in front of the library was designed to connect the building artistically and functionally with the quadrangle which unfolds before it to the north. 

The fountain below the terrace consists of two reflecting pools approximately one foot in depth with one placed above the other. Three cast bronze plaques, decorated with shell and fish motifs, work as spouts that fill the top reflecting pool which feeds water into the lower pool. The edges and corners of the fountain are decorated with a wave pattern and the terrace with a serpentine and modified acanthus leaf pattern.  

The terrace includes seven seats made of cast stone which face the quadrangle.  Between each seat is an armrest decorated in the Art Deco style with pine cone and fan motifs.  At each end of the terrace, near the steps leading to the main entrances, is a bronze drinking fountain with leaf designs.

The Memorial Quadrangle is located at the west end of campus between the Knight Library and 13th Avenue (north and south axis), and between Condon Hall and Prince Lucien Campbell Hall (west), and Chapman Hall and the Museum of Art (east).  Frederick Cuthbert was commissioned by Lawrence to design the quadrangle landscape in 1932. The National Register nomination does not identify when the name "Memorial Quadrangle" was officially applied to this site.  The National Register identifies three memorials associated with this space.

  • 1921. The first memorial plaque in the quadrangle was placed in 1921 to recognize the site of Kincaid Field and the students who played there. The plaque is near the northeast corner of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.
  • 1932. The memorial which incorporates the entire quadrangle space was established in 1932 to honor students who fought in the Spanish-American War and World War I.  The landscape design is made up of concrete walks shaped in the form of one large circle located directly in front of the Museum of Art with walks in the shape of an X to the north and south and another along 13th avenue. Also, there are walks which radiate from the center and also surround the perimeter of the mall.  There are two bronze plaques at the north end corners of the quadrangle which state: "The walks of this Quadrangle are the gift of Chaplain William S. Gilbert, as a memorial to the men of the University who served their country in the time of war." Also, seven lamps flank the mall; they were designed with fluted columns with decorative band with a floral pattern near the bottom topped by a frosted glass globe.
  • 1939. This plaque honors Robert Chase Bailey. Born in 1917, Bailey was senior class president at the time of his death by drowning in the Mill Race on April 9, 1939. At the time of Robert's death, his father, John Ora Bailey was chief justice of the of Oregon Supreme Court. The memorial  consists of the eight Pyramidal English Oak trees which line the quadrangle. A brass plaque atop the fountain at the library terrace reads, "Here where the living mind and step of youth retrace the ancient paths to human wisdom's goal, the symmetry of these oaks shall keep this place for one, for all who like him thought, in soul, in body, voice, and friendship - by Robert D. Horn. In memory of Robert Chase Bailey, Class of 1939."

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SOURCES

"Cuthbert Plans Future Campus." Oregon Daily Emerald, July 8, 1937.

"Landscape Students Plot Libe Driveway." Oregon Daily Emerald, November 5, 1936.

"Landscaping Work Increased; Fifteen New Men to Work on Projects." Oregon Daily Emerald, November 13, 1935.  Article notes that the new employees are in addition to 25 laborers already at work on campus landscape projects.

"Portland Senior Dies in Mill Race. Robert C. Bailey Drowns When Canoe Capsizes." Oregonian, April 10, 1939, 1.

"WPA Landscaping Work Progresses; Ball Diamond, Dance Filed May Be Made." Oregon Daily Emerald, February 15, 1936.

CAMPUS LANDSCAPE PLAN

The Campus Heritage Landscape Plan, coordinated by Christine Thompson and Christopher Ramey, and produced with the support of a Getty Foundation Campus Heritage Grant, documents the historic campus built environment and the roles of its creators.

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